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  • Earthquake and Tsunami Threaten Disaster Across Asia

    Friday morning, a massive earthquake hit Japan and spawned a massive tsunami that is sweeping across the Pacific, requiring evacuation along the Hawaiian coast. This morning the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an alert that “tsunami warnings and watches have been issued for the U.S. territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, as well as portions of coastal areas in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington.”

    Damage and loss of life in Japan will be significant. We have to be concerned as well about the safety of communities here that might be affected.

    These tragic events and the race in the days to come to limit suffering and privation are a reminder that catastrophes most often happen without warning. Catastrophes are usually come-as-you-are disasters.

    Even as responders now race to deal with disaster, it is not too soon to think ahead to how we’ll deal with the next catastrophes that will inevitably come.

    Two concerns ought to top our list.

    Most likely, as in the massive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the U.S. military could be called on to aid in disaster relief. Providing aid to civil authorities at home and abroad is an enduring mission of the U.S. military. Yet even as we recognize a military trained and ready to aid in disaster, as well as at the same time performing other vital defense missions, the Pentagon’s current thinking is to scale back on the armed forces’ ability to help out in catastrophes. That’s a mistake.

    A recent congressional commission report, “Before Disaster Strikes: Imperatives for Enhancing Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” had some pretty alarming conclusions. For example, despite nine years of post-9/11 ramping up, “there is currently no comprehensive national integrated planning system to respond to either natural or man-made disasters.” To make matters worse, federal, state, and local agencies are not even sharing what they are doing now. They are not, the report admonished, “making a sustained and comprehensive effort to share all-hazards response plans.” The report argued that catastrophic disasters are in a league of their own. If the military is not trained, resourced, equipped, and practiced at working with other federal, state, and local assets, Americans will be at grave risk.

    Meanwhile, the efforts of the FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, which have the responsibility for quarterbacking the U.S. response to catastrophes, increasingly find themselves focusing on lesser-scale emergency responses. As Heritage Homeland Security expert Matt Mayer writes, “This leaves FEMA stretched far too thin and ill prepared to respond to grand-scale catastrophes. The ‘federalization of disasters’ misdirects vital resources, leaving localities, states, and the federal government in a lose-lose situation. FEMA policies must be overhauled to let localities handle smaller, localized disasters, and to allow FEMA to respond fully and effectively when it is truly needed. If the status quo continues, it will be a disaster for everyone.”

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Earthquake and Tsunami Threaten Disaster Across Asia

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      A little over a year ago when Adm Mike Mullen warned the country of excessive federal spending, including the DoD, and the looming national debt (at the time hovering under $13 trillion) would limit our ability to respond to international crisis’s. Well we are there in very short order.

      The United States has spend not only its load, but it has also it dug deep into our children’s and grand children’s future pillaging from them to pay for the gluttony of the feds today. The DoD is not spread thin because of spending – it has more than enough. If it could only prioritize and swap resources from one program to ones that are in need for this nation’s defense, as Adm Mullen has warned the DoD it has to do, we may be able to get back to this kind of work. The military is spread thin because the DoD is still suffering from a spending spree it cannot wean itself off from. At any moment, our debt could cripple this nation and there will be little the DoD (who was a major contributor to that debt) can do to respond.

      FEMA is a ill-conceived solution. I agree, “FEMA policies must be overhauled to let localities handle smaller, localized disasters”. But I also contend that regional crisis’s can be handles locally as well. FEMA has had several decades to prove its worth and has yet to perform up to it mission. We can let FEMA and the billions it waste go and let the states coordinate emergency response as it sees fit.

      Using this disaster that is causing suffering and pain to justify increasing an already extremely high DoD budget is unwarranted and unbecoming of the HF.

    2. James Carafano James Jay Carafano says:

      I seriously do not get your point. So we should stand by knowing we are ill-prepared for future catastrophes and cut government functions prescribed by the Constitution to provide for the common defense–while letting Washington off the hook for spending the nation into poverty, funding programs that the Constitution never considered the right and appropriate role of government?

      I am sorry I guess on this issue we firmly disagree.

    3. George Colgrove, VA says:


      I just have one question, where do we get the money? I do agree that we *should* be better prepaired. But where or how do we fund it? The taxpayers are out of money. Corporations do not have enough money to fund employees they need to fully provide the services and products. If we cut out only the non-security, non-mandatory fundingm there is not enough money to close out the deficit. To close out the deficit and to keep our defense spending at red hot levels, we will need to stop SS, MC/MC and most of the rest of government. Do you really want to promote that? If so, I cannot be with you. SS, MC/MC will take time to wean off from. THe sooner we start, the better we will be. We have conned many generations with those ponzi scams.

      Where we can cut is relooking at how we spend defense dollars and other such "prepairedness" programs like FEMA. FEMA is mearly a redundant program – the states are already doing it themselves. Defense is riddled with waste, redundnancy and can be cut without impacting the mission.

      We have a 1.6 trillion 2011 deficit. February's deficit of $223 billion alone topped decades of annual deficits as far up to 2007. We can no longer afford the level of spending we are experiencing today. All must be cut back.

      If you take out the dedicated tax collection for SS MC/MC (about $800 billion) from the total budget and from mandatory spending, the rest of the federal government is paying for 55% of it's $3 trillion budget with debt. Does this not concern you?

    4. West Texan says:

      There was a time when the military was paying $400 plus for a toilet seat. With today's overseas commitments, it’d be interesting to see if such waste still occurs. This aside, I wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Carafano's response.

    5. James Carafano James Jay Carafano says:

      we stop spending on things the Constitution never envisioned the federal government should do.

    6. mike says:

      really a tsunami

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