Chertoff blames FEMA, not La., for botched Katrina response

NATION DIGEST

Nation Digest

October 20, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- FEMA's lack of planning, not the failures of state and local officials, was to blame for much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a congressional committee yesterday.

The assessment by the most senior administration official to face lawmakers since the hurricane struck in late August contrasted sharply with testimony offered previously by Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Brown blamed what he termed the "dysfunction" of Louisiana state and local officials for hobbling the relief effort.

"From my own experience, I don't endorse those views," Chertoff said. He told lawmakers that he found the region's governors and mayors to be responsive as the crisis unfolded.

Chertoff testified as Capitol Hill continued to wrestle with how to pay the huge costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and as the Federal Emergency Management Agency kept a close eye on Hurricane Wilma, which is expected to slam into the Florida Keys this week.

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