Bush Welcomes Discussion of Expanded DoD Role in Disaster Response
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 26, 2005 President Bush today urged Congress to consider whether the Defense Department should play a lead role in coordinating responses to catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina.
Responding to a reporter's question while addressing the energy situation on the Gulf Coast, the president confirmed that he was impressed by his weekend visit to U.S. Northern Command and is considering the plausibility of an expanded military role in disaster response.
Such a decision would likely require congressional approval and possible changes in the law, but is worthy of discussion and consideration, Bush said. "One of the reasons I went out to NORTHCOM was to see the operations there, to look at how well-organized NORTHCOM is (and) to listen to them talk about lessons learned from ... a major storm like Katrina," the president said. The visit also offered an opportunity "to think about ways for our country to properly respond to a catastrophic event, whether it be a natural catastrophic event or perhaps a terrorist attack," he said. Bush raised the concept of an expanded DoD role in disaster response during a Sept. 25 Hurricane Rita briefing at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. DoD would naturally assume the leadership role in the case of a terrorist attack, the president said, noting that extensive natural disasters could warrant the same level of response. "That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about," he said. Today Bush said he welcomes "a robust discussion about the best way for the federal government ... to rally assets for the good of the people" under extreme circumstances.
He encouraged Congress "to think about a circumstance that requires a lot of planning and a lot of assets immediately on the scene in order to stabilize" the situation.
Under one scenario he suggested, DoD would mobilize the necessary federal assets -- most of them military assets -- to stabilize a crisis situation then turn it over to the Department of Homeland Security, Bush said.
"And I think it's very important for us, as we look at the lessons of Katrina, to think about other scenarios that might require a well-planned, significant federal response right off the bat to provide stability," he said.