Comparing Katrina to 9-11

Donald Sensing argues that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.  He also makes a convincing case that the fed response to a terrorist attack would be much quicker than for a natural disaster (contrary to the assertions of some people, who have argued that the ‘slow’ federal response to Katrina made us look unprepared):

A lot of the criticism the administration has received for its response has either been accompanied by something like this: “If the response to Katrina is the best the federal government could do, let’s be thankful that this was not a terrorist attack!” Or something like that.

I demur. Despite the feds’ shortcomings here, the response to a terrorist attack would have been very different and much quicker.

Planning for and response to natural disasters has always been primarily a local and state responsibility. Obviously, that tenet is now being re-examined, but it has held true until now. The federal role has been to fill in the gaps that states can’t fill.

But response to an attack upon the country by a foreign power has always been primarily the federal government’s responsibility.

Certainly it is true that responding to a terrorist attack will require heavy involvement by local and state governments, but I think a key point is being missed (or dismissed) by the administration’s critics: by law, politics and tradition, the federal government automatically assumes primary authority to respond to attacks by outside powers. There would be no issue with posse comitatus nor treading on state government’s rights because defending the sovereign territory of the country is inherent, by definition, in the sovereign seat of the country, which is the federal government.

That is not to say that response to a terrorist attack, if one comes again, will run like a well-oiled machine. It is to say that a federal presence, especially a federal military presence, will be present and operating almost immediately, even if no changes to present law are made. It should be encouraging to remember that on Sept. 11, 2001, despite the complete surprise and non-anticipation of the attacks, the federal government did respond fairly rapidly by ordering all aircraft to land immediately and establishing combat air patrols over NYC and Washington, D.C. There were other security measures taken right away, too, such as those by the Coast Guard. Clearly, security against further attack was the first responsibiltiy of the federal government.

Read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: Joe Gandelman)

(Cross-posted at BlogsForBush)