FedSmith.com readers have weighed in on their view of how the federal government has performed during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Here is a quick summary of the results. 52% say that the performance of the federal government has been "unsatisfactory." 26% think it was "less than satisfactory." 7% rate the performance as "satisfactory"; 10% rate it as "very good"; and 5% think it has been outstanding.
A number of readers make a distinction between those employees doing the recovery work and those in charge of making decisions on behalf of agencies or the government.
For example, a federal employee from Ohio stated: "I’m embarrassed to be a federal employee when everyone at FEMA except the Coast Guard did such a poor job. The head of FEMA should be fired today."
An employee relations specialist from the Dept. of Transportation in Pennsylvania commented: "My rating relates to the President and the top Federal Government Administrator’s handling of the disaster. Hopefully in the very near future, we will hear an increasing number of positive stories about how well federal employees responded to the disaster."
Some readers say the problem during the recovery stemmed from placing the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.
This biologist from the FDA in Rockville, MD opined: "Coordination seems very bad following the placement of FEMA under DHS. Noone (at the local, state, or federal levels) seemed to really know what was going on (particularly during the first 48 -72 hours following the storm). Chaos reigned and people died who might not have – if a coordinated response were executed more quickly."
An emergency specialist from the Farm Service Agency in Washington had a similar response: "FEMA Head Michael Brown should be fired (and) FEMA should be removed from the DHS umbrella and returned to independent status."
An HR specialist from the VA in North Carolina said: "I think that putting FEMA under the DHS is a crime, and has taken away its direct response responsibilities. Past articles have said that the Director of DHS has told the staff of FEMA that they are not the primary disaster planners and responders anymore and do not need to train as such…if they are not the primary responders then who is??"
A number of readers also place the blame on the state and local government officials for the slow response time.
An employee relations specialist from Eglin AFB, FL wrote: "Most of America does not understand protections against the Federal Government taking over a "civilian" area. Altough we can aways improve, the logistics of this situation is acomplished at great personal risk. The city and state should have planned better in New Orleans."
An HR specialist from the Army in Vicksburg, MS had similar thoughts: "Local and State are first responders. Feds support those efforts. Due to the lack of planning by the local and state officials, the Feds had to step up to be first responders which they did in an organized and professional manner."
An investigative assistant from OPM wrote this summary of the situation: "I think the Federal government did an overall poor job. Having said that, local government (city/state) has culpability in the lack of response. And, most importantly it seems to me that no one was in charge of coordinating the different agencies to work toward the same goal. Talk about lack of communication!"
And a district planner from the Army Corps of Engineers writes this says it all: "On Sunday 9/4/05 a Corps Gulf Region spokesperson, when asked about the water quality flowing from New Orleans back into Lake Pontchartrain, he replied it presented no problems. On further questioning by CNN regarding water quality – he did not answer. On Tuesday 9/6/05 an official in the office of Mayor Ray Nagin told CNN the New Orleans flood waters are contaminated with E. coli."
Some readers also think things went surprisingly well considering the extent of the devastation. An accountant with the Coast Guard in Chesapeake, VA commented: "I think they are doing a very good job. They had to wait until things from the weather calmed down before they could get in. It was a terrible disaster and you just can’t walk in and make things better as soon as the clouds clear up and the sun comes out.I am totally disgusted with those gangs who raped and shot at people. I hope some one can bring them to justice. I am sure those elements act that way without any disasters."
And a labor relations specialist from the Navy had this thought: "I am sick of the politicizing of the hurricane’s relief effort. It was an act of God people. No one could have anticipated the devastating effects. They were told to get out and should have, no matter the excuse. So now all of you who want to play the blame game, get your butts down there and help out, and put your money where your mouth is!"
And, finally, this thought from an automation clerk with the Forest Service in California: "Devestating. My heart goes out to all. I have sent money, love & prayors. We have sent some of our finest to help with the disaster relief efforts."
Our thanks to all readers who took the time to respond to our poll and and a particular thanks to those who took the time to send in their comments and opinions.