Richard Coleman: Put the military in charge of disaster response

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.

I am embarrassed, again. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Asian tsunami rolled over a big portion of lower Asia the bureaucrats rushed in to take charge of the relief and rescue effort. What a mess.

The bureaucrats have a plan that allows no deviation. Their formula after a disaster is first survey the area (even if local and national TV and radio is broadcasting live). At least one day, at best. After the survey the bureaucracy has to determine what aid and relief effort is required and

arrange transportation. Another two days. Finally after four (three if you are really lucky) days rescue and aid may commence. We have wasted four days which has cost lives, caused rioting and looting and made the people doubt the efforts of the rescuers.

My suggestion: Put the military in charge of initial relief and rescue. A military leader with combat experience, able to react to changing situations and not lose sight of the mission and who doesn't worry about being "politically correct." In Haiti a military operation would have 4,000 troops on the ground within hours. C-130 and C-117 aircraft loaded with relief aid, rescue equipment,

equipment to operate the airport such as lights and beacons, move cargo, fuel and even helicopters (which also can island hop). The military can have aid directly to the people within 24 hours, not all the people, but you got to start somewhere. A very active effort could be underway within two days with the military in charge.

During Katrina rescue efforts, Lt. Gen Honore called in when things were out of control, made a big difference in getting things done before the bureaucrats shoved him aside. Save lives, save time, put the best people in charge of relief and rescue the next time. Those first four days can make a lifetime of difference.

Richard F. Coleman,


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