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September 26, 2005

Bush offers Pentagon as 'lead agency' in disasters

Topics: Natural Disasters

In view of all the problems in New Orleans associated with Katrina, and especially the incompetence and failures displayed at the state and local level in Louisiana by Mayor Nagin and the simpleton Gov. Blanco, making the Pentagon the lead agency in disasters makes a lot of sense. Presently, this is forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, but yesterday, President Bush made it clear that he things that it's time to consider changes in the law in view of today's challenges.

"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice," he said.
That would require a change of law, since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids the military from performing civilian law enforcement duties. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is investigating possible reforms to the act, which Pentagon officials consider archaic.
Sen. John W. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the president and defense secretary should be given "standby authorities" to respond to natural disasters.
"I believe the time has come that we reflect on the Posse Comitatus Act," the Virginia Republican said on the Senate floor earlier this month.
You may recall that revisions in the Posse Comitatus Act began to surface during the 2002 DC sniper killings.

The Rand Corporation (via the Jurist)offers an overview of the Posse Comitatus Act [PDF], LLRX offers a print-oriented resource guide, and the conservative Cato Institute hosted a debate [recorded video - requires "Real Player"] on the Act's current applicability in 2002.

Related: Muddle-headed thinking on the future of New Orleans

Posted by Richard at September 26, 2005 5:50 AM

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