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Context of 'After 3:00 pm August 29, 2005: Army Corps Confirms New Orleans’ Levee System Breaches; Catastrophic Flooding'

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979). During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day. According to FEMA’s website, the agency’s Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is currently the “Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions.” [fema.gov, 6/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Office of National Continuity Programs, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Federal Preparedness Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

When FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see After March 1, 2003), FEMA loses control of more than $800 million in federal grant money to the Office of Domestic Preparedness, another part of DHS. Included in that sum are funds designated for emergency management preparedness grants, which fund states’ emergency management offices. After the merger, these preparedness grants are no longer given directly to the country’s state emergency management directors. Instead, they are given to state homeland security offices [Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2005] where they are generally designated for use in counterterrorism. [US Congress, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Association

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

State officials hold a conference call with emergency preparedness directors for the Southeastern Louisiana parishes to discuss the storm forecasts and state plans. The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LOHSEP), has already mobilized its crisis action team, although, representative Mark Smith remarks that while they are getting prepared, they are “in a state of flux. Nobody’s real sure exactly what Katrina is going to do.” The office plans to activate its Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning at 7:30 am, with a statewide conference call. [Louisiana, 8/26/2005; Times-Picayune, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Operations Center, Mark Smith

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Army Corp’s Al Naomi calls the state emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge to inform officials of a catastrophic situation in the city. Water from the increasingly large breach in the 17th Street Canal floodwall, which will grow to 200 feet wide, is pouring out, and flooding New Orleans. [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] According to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the Corps reports the other breaches in the levee system as well: “It was disseminated. It went to our OEP in Baton Rouge, to the state, FEMA, the Corps,” Naomi will later recall. “The people in the field knew it. The people here (in Corps offices) in Louisiana and Mississippi knew it. I don’t know how communication worked in those agencies.” [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] Yet, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) will later recall that the mood in the state’s headquarters is not one of panic this afternoon: “We were saying, ‘Thank you, God,’ because the experts were telling the governor it could have been even worse.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005 Sources: Mary L. Landrieu]

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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