This is not Governor Blanco’s Louisiana. Since Katrina, the state has reformed and refitted its ability to respond to disasters to the point that it has become a national role model in many respects.
It starts with the Gov. Bobby Jindal. Everyday, Jindal convenes a meeting of the State Unified Command Group which manages the entire state response. Both BP and the Coast Guard brief. Jindal asks the tough questions. If he doesn’t get the right answers, people know it. He sets the tone for everything—and the tone is “make things happen people.”
After Katrina, the state established a separate cabinet level position for emergency preparedness and homeland security. That was a smart move—it has been the backbone of the current response. One of the state’s initiatives was to create an Internet-based system called “Web EOC” to task and track all emergency response requests. Without that system getting crews and skimmers to the right clean-up spots, there would have been chaos.
The Louisiana National Guard has over 1,000 soldiers deployed for the response. That is in addition to troops on missions in Europe, Haiti, and Afghanistan. About one-third of the Louisiana military force is somewhere other than home. For the oil spill response, the Guard is the lynchpin between the local Parish officials and the Coast Guard, BP, and the private contractors. Some of the most innovative ideas on how to deal with the spill have come from the state’s citizen soldiers.
Most of all, it’s the people of Louisiana who are the real heroes down here. They have rolled up their sleeves and are fighting back. They know this is different than dealing with hurricanes; it is far worse. A hurricane may destroy things—but those things can be rebuilt. If the state’s wetlands are poisoned, it will affect generations. So the people of Louisiana are willing to do whatever is necessary to take the fight to the spill and stop the oil before it makes land. They are also fighting Washington—on everything from the red tape that is slowing the clean-up to the drilling moratorium that is killing jobs.
And like all heroes from the time of Odysseus, their reward will probably be just more adversity. All of the assets and people that are helping in the clean-up are just targets for the next Hurricane. When the next storm turns their way, the first thing responders, from the parish presidents to the National Guard, will have to do is get all of these assets out of the hurricane’s path. And then they will have to turn right around and assist the people of the state in dealing with the storm.
Washington should give them more help and less red tape.
Our Live from the Gulf series is brought to you by our team of energy, environment, homeland security and response experts:
James Carafano: Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
Jack Spencer: Policy Director, Energy and Environment, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Nick Loris: Research Assistant, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Rory Cooper: Director of Strategic Communications