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White House Katrina report calls for greater military role, legal streamlining

[JURIST] The US military should take a greater, perhaps sometimes even temporarily a leading role in disaster recovery, and policy steps should to be taken to facilitate this, according to a 228-page White House report [table of contents and full text; fact sheet] released Thursday on lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina disaster [JURIST news archive]. Noting that the military response to Hurricane Katrina had been slowed by Defense Department policy and federal law, the study authored by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend [official profile] recommends that the Defense Department develop recommendations for revising the Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan [DHS backgrounder] to delineate the circumstances, objectives, and limitations of when DOD might temporarily assume the lead for the Federal response to a catastrophe. It also recommends that DOD revise its internal procedures to allow commanders, in appropriate circumstances, to take initiative without a request from local authorities.

The report also includes a call for the US Justice Department to "examine Federal responsibilities for support to State and local law enforcement and criminal justice systems during emergencies and then build operational plans, procedures, and policies to ensure an effective Federal law enforcement response" and a recommendation that "Legal and liability impediments to the use and coordination of non-governmental and private sector resources during a catastrophic event should be removed." Reuters has more.

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