Huckabee on Crisis Managment

Taken from MikeHuckabee.com Issues Page.

  • You need to know that your President will calmly and confidently lift you up in a crisis. During the massive emergency of Hurricane Katrina, when local, state, and federal governments were in melt-down, I stepped forward and directed the rescue and relief of 75,000 victims. Our island of success in a sea of failure was one of the reasons Time magazine named me one of America’s five best governors.<p>
  • I will remove FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security and restore it to Cabinet status, so that the Director reports directly to me. My FEMA Director will have sterling credentials, including extensive, hands-on experience in disaster response.<p>
  • I will reassess, tighten, and strengthen the focus and mission of the Department of Homeland Security. When the Department was formed, it brought together 180,000 people from 22 agencies, and its size and structure have proven to be unwieldy and inefficient.<p>
  • I will address the many unresolved issues from 9/11, such as the security of our ports and our chemical plants. I will not allow the federal government to pre-empt stricter state standards enacted for your protection.

You need to know that your President will calmly and confidently lift you up in a crisis. During the sudden and massive emergency of Hurricane Katrina, I conceived and directed the rescue and relief of 75,000 people. As Governor, I had dealt with severe ice storms and tornadoes and other emergencies within Arkansas, but Katrina was a major national disaster, one of the worst in our history. The scale and scope of that undertaking was the type of challenge I will face as President, and I met that challenge. Even though these people were displaced by a hurricane, the results were the same as if Al Qaeda had blown up the levees, so it was experience relevant to coping with a terrorist attack as well.

Given the massive incompetence at all levels of government, it didn’t take much for anybody to look good during Katrina, mere competence would have made me and the people of Arkansas look like heroes. But I never settle for competence, I demand excellence, and that’s what we achieved. We had plenty of state facilities, like armories, that we could have used – big, cavernous, impersonal places – but to me that wasn’t housing people, that was warehousing them. In looking for alternatives, I thought of our church camps and scout camps, which had just closed for the season, and I invited their leaders to my office to ask if they would re-open for us. Not a single one said no. They gave me the keys to their kingdom.

Over that Labor Day weekend, we raised an army of volunteers, and we had folks making up beds and sorting clothes and chopping vegetables and grilling meat. I’ll never forget the mountains of toys and diapers, the flats of bottled water as far as the eye could see. The stream of buses was endless, but we were ready for them, ready with a hug and a teddy bear, a hot shower, a new wardrobe, an inviting buffet. I had a clear vision of how I wanted to welcome and care for these people: they were beyond hungry and thirsty and dirty and exhausted, they had been traumatized and dehumanized, treated like packages bouncing around a UPS truck, and we brought them back to life.

When Congress put FEMA in the Department of Homeland Security, they moved its Director too far down the food chain. I will restore FEMA to Cabinet status, so that the Director reports directly to me. My FEMA Director will have sterling credentials, the leadership and management skills required by a cabinet-level job, including extensive, hands-on experience in disaster response.

I will reassess, tighten, and strengthen the focus and mission of the Department of Homeland Security. When the Department was formed, it brought together 180,000 people from 22 agencies, combining tasks as diverse and unrelated as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the Agriculture Department and the Nuclear Incident Response Team from the Energy Department. Its size and structure have proven to be unwieldy and inefficient. We need to create a leaner structure with a passionate esprit de corps dedicated to identifying threats and foiling attacks.

I will address the many security issues still unresolved after 9/11, such as the security of our ports and our chemical plants. If states choose even tougher standards to protect their people, I will respect their authority and not allow the federal government to pre-empt those standards. When New Jersey passed standards for its chemical plants, lobbyists for the chemical companies tried to get Congress to pass weak federal legislation for these plants and to pre-empt New Jersey from enforcing its stricter standards. I will always fight for you, not the lobbyists.

I have been tested, and I have proven my ability to provide creative, decisive, and effective leadership during a major catastrophe. My crisis management ability is one of the reasons Time magazine named me one of America’s five best governors.

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