Tuesday, January 24, 2006

From the NY Times:

Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled

Until January 2003, reconstruction planning was conducted in secrecy "to avoid the impression that the U.S. government had already decided on intervention," the draft history says. Possibly as a result, the American administrative authority arrived with no written plans or strategies for purchasing and contracting and no personnel with expertise in the area.

Among the first challenges the program faced were the impossibly great needs of crumbling public works. Mr. Nash is cited in the document as saying that officials realized early on that Iraq would need $70 billion to $100 billion over several years. They were forced cut the list of projects down again and again.

"No matter how we pared the list, we needed $20 billion more than we had available or Iraqi reconstruction and transition would stall," Mr. Nash is quoted as saying.

Finally, a list of mostly large projects in several infrastructure areas, including oil, electricity, water, health care and security, was settled on. But a bottleneck immediately arose as the contracting process descended into chaos, the document says. One informer for the inspector general said there were "about 20 different organizations undertaking contracting."

"The C.P.A. was contracting, companies were contracting subcontractors, and some people who didn't have authority such as the ministries were also awarding contracts," the informer told the inspector general.

In the midst of that confusion, at the offices that were actually charged with carrying out those duties "the contracting function was grossly understaffed," the document says.

"They were in need of both larger numbers of personnel, and personnel with qualifications more in line with the work that needed to be done," the document says.

From the Washington Post:

White House Got Early Warning on Katrina

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

The NISAC analysis accurately predicted the collapse of floodwalls along New Orleans's Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, an event that the report described as "the greatest concern." The breach of two canal floodwalls near the lake was the key failure that left much of central New Orleans underwater and accounted for the bulk of Louisiana's 1,100 Katrina-related deaths.

The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration's foreknowledge about Katrina's potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Between these two reports, is there any doubt that this administration is incompetent? I know some argue that the administration is indifferent and some conspiracy theorists argue that the administration intends to do these things in order to demonstrate how bad the Federal government is at solving problems, but I seriously disagree with the latter position. It seems much more reasonable to me to think that they are just bad managers who hire bad people and perform poorly. As to the point about them being indifferent, my guess is that they are so convinced that they have everything under control that they don't seek out potential flaws. Why should they? They can handle anything thrown at them. It comes down to incompetence coupled with ego and that is a dangerous combination.

They're doin' a heckuva job!

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