Chertoff Calls for More Hurricane Preparedness

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledges that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was "overwhelmed" by Hurricane Katrina and called for a build-up of the government's "preparedness capability" to deal with major natural disasters and terrorist attacks. We hear some of Secretary Chertoff's testimony before Congress.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was on Capitol Hill today testifying about another storm, Hurricane Katrina, and FEMA's response to it.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Department of Homeland Security): Katrina was a crash course in things that worked well and didn't work well.

BLOCK: In response to questions from a special House committee, Chertoff defended the Bush administration's decision to make FEMA part of the Department of Homeland Security. But he admitted FEMA was unprepared for a catastrophe of this size.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Sec. CHERTOFF: Hurricane Katrina was the largest natural disaster that FEMA has ever been called upon to support. Although FEMA prepositioned significant numbers of personnel, assets and resources before the hurricane made landfall, we now know that its capabilities were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the storm.

BLOCK: Chertoff was also asked about the testimony last month of former FEMA Director Michael Brown. Brown blamed Governor Kathleen Blanco and local officials in Louisiana for the poor response to Katrina. Chertoff was asked if he agreed with his former employee.

(Soundbite of hearing)

Sec. CHERTOFF: I had interaction, I think, with the governor every day, and I think I had a good relationship with her. I didn't have any difficulty in dealing with her or with the state and local authorities I dealt with. I don't know what--you know, Mr. Brown expressed his opinion. I don't know what his personal experience was. He's entitled to express his views. I don't--from my own experience, I don't, you know, endorse those views.

BLOCK: Chertoff said the main problem with FEMA's response to Katrina was an outdated logistical plan, and he said building up FEMA's capabilities is now an urgent priority.

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