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Report Slams Homeland Response to Katrina

Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff is seen through a mirror during a recent trip to Capitol Hill.
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Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff is seen through a mirror during a recent trip to Capitol Hill.

A focus on terrorism left the Department of Homeland Security unable to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to the agency's Inspector General. His sharply critical report makes 38 recommendations for improving disaster response missions.

The list of problems includes poor communications, a lack of coordination among government agencies, and a failure to get emergency supplies where and when they were needed most. Inspector General Richard Skinner's report reinforces many of the findings of earlier investigations by a House select committee and by the White House.

Homeland Security officials say they've already started to make many of the proposed changes to get ready for the upcoming hurricane season.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, of Maine, said in a written response that the new report highlights what she called the "unacceptable failures" of FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina. Her committee is expected to issue its own report later this month.

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Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.