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Context of 'Morning-Afternoon, August 27, 2005: Louisiana National Guard Activates, Pre-Positions'

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ABC News reports that much of the Louisiana National Guard’s equipment—including dozens of high-water vehicles, humvees, refuelers, and generators—is in Iraq. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard tells ABC. [ABC News, 8/1/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Louisiana National Guard is alerted this morning, according to Lt. Col. Pete Schneider: “[A]ll of a sudden, on Saturday morning, the call went out, you know, this thing is in the Gulf. The call still went out to, ‘Hey, we got to keep an eye on it a little bit more now,’ but it was still projected to go into the eastern Panhandle. You know, everybody was keeping an eye on it, but—and then Friday—and then Saturday afternoon was, ‘That’s it, you know, it’s not making the turn. It’s time to roll.’” [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] Approximately 3,500-4,000 National Guard members called to state active duty, along with along with Guard equipment such as vehicles, generators, and Humvees. According to Schneider, troops fan out to staging areas across the state, where they will wait for the storm to pass, before distributing supplies and maintaining order. The emergency plan anticipates the possibility of looting and violence. The plans call for Guard troops to be pre-positioned with the New Orleans Police Department and with state police troops throughout the greater New Orleans area. [Salon, 9/1/2005; National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] As of today, approximately 35 percent of Louisiana’s National Guard troops are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the National Guard. Approximately 40 percent of Mississippi’s National Guard Troops and approximately 23 percent of Alabama’s National Guard troops are also serving overseas. [American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005] Louisiana’s 256th Infantry and Mississippi’s 155th Armored, each deployed overseas, contain hundreds of members who serve in “combat support” roles such as engineers, truck drivers, and logisticians, and thus who specialize in the disaster relief functions. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard, will later claim that the deployment of Guard troops and equipment oversees has left troops at home without the equipment and vehicles necessary to respond to a crisis such as Katrina. Most of the Guard’s satellite phones, which are essential during power and cell phone service outages that will occur when Katrina sweeps through, are overseas, according to Blum, as is most of the Guard’s best equipment. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will state that “once again our Guard is, I don’t like to use the word ‘stressed,’ but they are challenged” by commitments at home and overseas. [Chicago Tribune, 9/17/2005] However, top Pentagon officials will deny that the Guard’s deployment in Iraq has any impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to the disaster. “That’s just flat wrong. Anyone who’s saying that doesn’t understand the situation,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will contend. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]
Note - The exact number of members called to active duty today is unclear. Several news reports indicate that 3,500 members are called to duty. [MacCash and O.Byrne, 8/29/2005; American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] . Other news reports state that 4,000 members are called to duty. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005] The Boston Globe will report that 5,700 Guard members are deployed by Monday. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that it based on a timeline received from the Louisiana National Guard, 2,000 members are mobilized on Saturday, and 4,000 members are mobilized by Sunday. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Steven Blum, New Orleans Police Department, Donald Rumsfeld, Louisiana National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Approximately 10,000 residents are now sheltering in the New Orleans Superdome. The Louisiana National Guard has delivered three truckloads of water and seven truckloads of MREs, which it expects is sufficient to provision 15,000 people for up to three days, according to Col. Jay Mayeaux, Deputy Director of Louisiana Homeland Security Office of Emergency Preparedness. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005 Sources: Jay Mayeaux] More than 600 people with medical needs are housed at the dome. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005] Some 200-550 National Guard members are inside the Superdome providing security and water. Other Guard engineers will be in the dome to monitor the structural integrity of the facility. ( [MacCash and O.Byrne, 8/29/2005] reports 200 Guard members on duty; [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005] reports 400 Guard members on duty; and [Associated Press, 8/29/2005] reports 5500 Guard members on duty.
Note - Reports vary regarding the number of residents in the Superdome this evening. One contemporaneous report indicates that 26,000 people are sheltered there. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005] A few hours from now, the same paper will report that the dome is sheltering more than 30,000 people. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] However, the next morning, the same paper will report that approximately 8,000-9,000 people are there, citing Doug Thornton, General Manager of the Superdome. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005 Sources: Doug Thornton] FEMA Director Michael Brown will tell National Public Radio tomorrow morning that 9,000-10,000 people are sheltered there. [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005 Sources: Michael D. Brown] See also, [ABC, 8/29/2005; CBS News, 8/29/2005] .

Entity Tags: Louisiana National Guard, New Orleans Superdome

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau reports that the Guard is ready to respond to the storm: Aircraft positioned from Hammond to the Texas border are ready to fly behind the storm to check damage after it passes over New Orleans. Search and rescue operations are coordinating with the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department and the Coast Guard. More guardsmen stationed at the Jackson Barracks, stand ready to head into the city with high-water vehicles as soon as the storm passes. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Coast Guard, Louisiana National Guard, Bennett C. Landreneau

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard almost immediately loses all forms of communication, according to Lt. Col. Schneider. Louisiana State Police also lose communications as well, according to Sgt. Lawrence McLeary, a state police officer in the Baton Rouge emergency center: “We lost contact with our personnel there. We lost contact with our troupe on the north shore, located in Mandeville. So we had—I mean, it was a pretty tense time, because we had no idea what was taking place in those areas.” The landlines are no longer operable. Cell phone towers have toppled; some are under water. Power is out and so it is impossible to recharge battery-operated radios. Guard generators, which could have charged these devices, are in either Iraq or Baton Rouge, according to a National Public Radio report. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider, Lawrence McLeary] FEMA emergency officials will wait days to receive working satellite phones. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Police, Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress rewrites a two-centuries-old prohibition against the president using federal troops, or state National Guard troops acting under federal control, to act as police on domestic soil. The prohibition dates back to the Insurrection Act of 1807, which stated that the only circumstance under which the president could use troops to enforce the law against US citizens is during a time of armed revolt. The ban on using troops against citizens was strengthened by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids any government official from using military soldiers as police without specific authorization from Congress. The new law stems from the reported lawlessness that swept New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated large parts of the city. The governor of Louisiana, Democrat Kathleen Blanco, refused to allow the federal government to take over the evacuation of the city, fearing that the change would amount to martial law (see 11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005). After this rejection, and the devastation wrought in Texas by Hurricane Rita just weeks later, President Bush began discussing the idea of a new law that would allow the president to impose martial law in a region for reasons other than citizen uprisings. He called it “making the Department of Defense the lead agency” in handling emergencies such as those created by Katrina and Rita, or by another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. (Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo argues that the president does not need any new laws because his inherent authority as commander in chief lets him send federal troops anywhere he likes, no matter what the law says.) A year later, Congressional Republicans slip a provision into a large military appropriations bill allowing the president to deploy federal troops as police at his discretion, regardless of the possible objections of state governors. Any situation in which the president feels the “constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order” can trigger military control of a city, county, or state at the president’s behest. Bush signs the law into effect on October 17 with virtually no debate or public discussion. [Savage, 2007, pp. 316-319]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Insurrection Act, Posse Comitatus Act, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, John C. Yoo

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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