White House To Release Report on Disasters

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006

The White House is scheduled to release a report today calling for the military to be more closely involved in handling large natural disasters as part of a plan to improve the government's emergency response operations, which were exposed as fatally flawed after Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush ordered the report after harsh criticism of the government's sluggish response to the disaster, which killed more than 1,300 people and devastated much of the Gulf Coast region.

The report, overseen by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, is also expected to call for strengthening mandatory evacuation policies and ensuring that the Federal Emergency Management Agency works more closely with governors and other local officials, according to previews of the document offered by administration officials.

In all, the report will make 125 recommendations for improving the nation's emergency response functions, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. Bush is expected to discuss the findings with his Cabinet this morning.

James Jay Carafano, a homeland security expert at the Heritage Foundation who has seen parts of the document, said it also calls for improved training and equipping of the National Guard to respond to domestic disasters.

The report comes one week after the release of a scathing House report by Republican lawmakers that called for restructuring the nation's disaster response system. The report found that leaders from Bush down missed clear warnings of the unfolding calamity and did not activate emergency procedures or share information that could have saved lives.

The Senate is expected to release its own report on Katrina in coming weeks.

"What we want to do is take a close look at what worked and what didn't work and apply those lessons," McClellan said.

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