Terrorism concerns overshadowed disaster relief needs

U.S. government officials allowed concerns about terrorism to overshadow the
dangers posed by natural disasters after the September 11 attacks, even though
such disasters occur more frequently and are not preventable, The New York Times
reported on Saturday citing a new Department of Homeland Security report.

The report concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, roundly
criticized for its slow and often ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina last
year, needed to improve.

“Much of the criticism is warranted,” the Times quoted the report as saying
about FEMA’s Katrina response.

The report by the department’s inspector general, Richard Skinner, offered 38
recommendations for improving FEMA’s effectiveness in areas ranging from housing
for disaster victims to communicating with local officials, the Times said.

It said the agency must do a better job training employees, improve its
computer systems and win more effective support from the Department of Homeland
Security, which recently assumed responsibility for the embattled,
once-independent agency.

It added that Homeland Security’s takeover of FEMA had not been smooth, with
full integration requiring “additional work and a level of support not currently
demonstrated,” the report said.