Being On Vacation Means Not Having To Pick Up The Phone
Here is the actual story, and the video of NorthCom Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, on the record, explaining that NorthComm was ready to go with ships, helicopters and relief, but that the President had to pick up the phone and tell them to go, as they're a military division. He never gave them the go ahead or issued the one page document with his signiture to release them for two days, while they waited.
the only link that works on the copy is at the very bottom - to direct video.
"Because Northern Command oversees all active-duty military operations inside the United States, it's also responsible for organizing the relief operations on the Gulf Coast. There are early indications, however, that NorthCom officials aren't entirely pleased with the orders they've received of late from the president.
There's an interesting BBC World News report (brought to my attention by my friend Darrell) in which NorthCom Lt. Commander Sean Kelly explained the military's efforts which, in addition to military support, include distribution of medical supplies, search and rescue operations, distributing food and water, and meeting transportation needs. (Note: the server hosting the video seems to be overwhelmed. This is a direct .mpg link, which is also slow right now, but keep trying.)
When the BBC noted the criticism of the government's slow response, Lt. Commander Kelly explained that NorthCom was ready to go well in advance of Katrina making landfall, but suggested the president didn't make the right call at the right time.
"Northcom started planning before the storm even hit. We were ready when it hit Florida, because, as you remember, it hit the bottom part of Florida, and then we were planning once it was pointed towards the Gulf Coast.
"So, what we did, we activated what we call 'defense coordinating officers' to work with the states to say, 'OK, what do you think you will need?' And we set up staging bases that could be started.
"We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready.
"The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission."
This seems like it could be a fairly big deal. There's been some frustration on the part of military officials about bureaucracy and FEMA's ineffectiveness, but Kelly's remarks to the BCC sounded like a fairly direct challenge to the president's leadership — they wanted to leap into action, but the White House never made the call.
Considering that there are already questions about who was in charge last week, can someone please ask the White House who first gave the order to NorthCom and when?
Update: If you have trouble with the link to the BBC video, here's a direct link."