Who should we blame?

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

I read with great sorrow Congressman Randy Forbe’s letter on the Hurricane Katrina devastation and how he thinks we should go forward.

Once again a politician focuses on the proper spin politically versus the proper response rationally.

I really don’t see this gigantic need the politicians have on blaming someone for this.

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There shouldn’t be a need for me to reiterate what everyone knows about the horrors of this natural disaster, but I will for the record, so the excuse mongers won’t imply I am unaware or that I am unsympathetic.

Thousands of people’s lives have been lost or traumatically altered for ever.

Katrina was a horrific natural disaster that was unavoidable. Let me say that again. Katrina was unavoidable.

Whether you are one of us (normal Christians) who believe in God or not,

you have to believe that mankind at this point in our civilization had no ability to stop Katrina from happening. If you are a hard Bible thumping Christian conservative nut case or a fanatical Islamic extremist then maybe you might think Katrina was God giving the United States the back-handed slap. But for the remainder of the population in touch with reality, you accept this happened and we couldn’t have stopped it.

So, next we talk about how the impacts could have been minimized. So, let’s see, maybe the Army Corps of Engineers should have been able to raise enough stink through the federal budget process about the poor Mississippi dyke situation that Congress (including Mr. Forbes) would empty out the already empty government purse to rebuild, reinforce or otherwise make the dykes invincible to all possible conditions.

But if the Army Corps of Engineers had done that, heads would have rolled within the army for daring to put Congress in that position of having to choose directly.


a lot of people would have been ridiculed and fired from their jobs within the Army.

his is just not the reality of our world that a bureaucrat would overstep their bounds and effectively confront Congress.

Additionally, there is no way to &uot;Hurricane / Natural Disaster Proof&uot; these dykes no matter how much money was spent. There is always the possibility of weakening by incessant rains, or terrorist action, or earthquakes that would then make the strongest of manmade structures susceptible to collapse by a natural disaster.

So, instead we need to blame someone.

How about the people who will try and help.

For the next disaster, maybe FEMA could preposition enough food, water, blankets, medical supplies, tents, diapers, baby food,

in every area of every state for a half a million people on short notice as well as hire enough staff to collect, transport and distribute this stuff on eight hours notice after any natural disaster in any area of the country. I guess that might be at least 5,000 people more per area, permanently on the government payroll in every area of every state that might experience a natural disaster. If there is only one area of each state that this applies to then we would need another 250,000 government employees full time. At about $35,000 per employee that is more than $8 billion more in annual costs.

To be truly ready to react in the timeframe demanded (not requested) by the victims and their corresponding politicians we need to continuously be replacing the stocks of materials.

If you buy these supplies in advance, and use a $2,000 ATM card for each of the 100,000 people in New Orleans as a standard, that is $2 million per area of each state or $100 million. But that might only feed you for a short while. Lets say that money isn’t spent on alcohol or cigarettes and that the cost of food that is available isn’t more expensive than normal (like I really believe that!) that should get somebody by for a couple of months.

Now the trucks. Lets assume that there needs to be 200 trucks sitting just outside of the propositioned warehouse (we will address later) in each area of each state or 10,000 trucks total.

And assume we get a deal for buying in bulk so the trucks are only about $75,000 each. Then we only spend about $750 million for that part of the equipment.

God, don’t let me forget to calculate the fuel costs. Those will be stable and easy right!

Okay, now we need to build a warehouse in each of the areas in each of our states.

A bare-bones minimum warehouse for stacking all the food, water, diapers, medicine, and supplies would cost us at least $10 million (if we get a deal on the land and have McDonald’s restaurant chain build them). So the cost of the warehouses is going to be $500 million.

We can just leave the power and water off to keep the maintenance costs down. I think the food will keep without the A/C going.

We can just skip the annual cost of maintaining these hurricane-proof storage facilities as I am sure it isn’t that important.

To be able to fly out all of the 100,000 people who remained in New Orleans, we would have to ramp up quite a bid.

To respond in the eight-hour timeframe here is what I figure;

eight evacuees per helicopter, 20 minutes to fly in/out and load each hello.

That is 24 evacuees per helo, per hour, or 192 persons in eight hours. That would take 520 helos and crews propositioned in each area of each state. At a very conservative cost of $2 million per helo, that is another $1 billion in initial equipment investment. Plus, you would add on the cost of training and salaries for each of the crews in each of the areas of each state. For 50 states we are talking about $50 billion initial investment plus the operational costs of crews.

The flight crews would consist of a pilot, co-pilot, and a hoist operator for each helo. So, for

520 aircrews for each of the 50 states we are talking about another 78,000 employees of either the military, Coast Guard or some other federal agency.

If we are really cheap we can get a pilot and crew to accept a salary of $70,000 each. That is 78,000 times $70,000 per year or $5.4 billion per year.

I am really sure I am leaving out some of the components of this whole operations, so I should just take a look at the costs so far.

Annual manpower costs of $8 billion, plus $5.4 billion for personnel, plus $50 billion for helicopters alone, plus a minor cost of pre-positioned supplies in the amount of $100 million, trucks are $750 million, warehouses are $500 million.

Okay, so the truth I see is that no amount of money that is really possible can make use truly ready to respond as demanded by the local politicians, the spin doctors, and all the other opportunists looking to point a finger at someone. Bad things happen. Bad things will continue to happen. Passing another bill in Congress, adding more taxes, having another hearing on Capital Hill will not do one damn thing to solve this problem. It is all about perceptions and people believing they are owed immediate help and are not required to be responsible for themselves under any circumstances.

I contributed to the relief in several ways, as did a lot of Americans. Do I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I hear people crying racism? Nope.

Do I think some things could have been done better?Yep!

Could anyone have reasonably satisfied the victims? Nope.

Should we stop trying to help or be prepared? Nope.

Is Mr. Forbes part of a solution?

Dave Forsythe

Former Suffolk resident

Jacksonville, Fla.