Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Guard Was Deluged Too

Today the NY Times investigates why the National Guard seems to have dropped the ball with its response to Katrina. One major reason: Iraq.

In interviews, Guard commanders and state and local officials in Louisiana said the Guard performed well under the circumstances. But they say it was crippled in the early days by a severe shortage of troops that they blame in part on the deployment to Iraq of 3,200 Louisiana guardsmen. While the Pentagon disputes that Iraq was a factor, those on the ground say the war has clearly strained a force intended to be the nation's bulwark against natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Reinforcements from other states' National Guard units, slowed by the logistics and red tape involved in summoning troops from civilian jobs and moving them thousands of miles, did not arrive in large numbers until the fourth day after the hurricane passed. The coordinating task was so daunting that Louisiana officials turned to the Pentagon to help organize the appeal for help.
With all of the focus on FEMA's screwups, this aspect of why the federal government's response to Katrina was so poor seems to have gotten lost in the haze. Indeed, with all of the focus on hurricanes in the US media, Iraq itself has disappeared almost entirely off the national radar.