The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came to New York yesterday and offered the most detailed public accounting yet of how the response of police officers and firefighters was undermined by poor planning, inadequate equipment, faulty communication, and generations-old interagency rivalries, the New York Times reports. At an emotional hearing a mile from ground zero, some panel members said the city’s emergency-response plan in 2001 was badly flawed and suggested that 32 months later, the nation’s largest city remains dangerously unprepared to deal with another terrorist strike.
“I think the command and control and communications of this city’s public service is a scandal,” said John F. Lehman, a Republican commission member and former Navy secretary. The city’s disaster-response plans, he added, were “not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city.” He said an emergency-response plan announced last week by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “simply puts in concrete a clearly dysfunctional system” in which the police and fire Departments squabble over control at disaster scenes. The vice chairman of the panel, Lee H. Hamilton, described the mayor’s plan as a “prescription for confusion.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani are testifying today. The city’s current fire, police, and emergency management commissioners told the panel they had made great strides in improving communication and agency cooperation. They said they did not see any evidence that agency rivalries had affected operations on Sept. 11. The police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, said, “I don’t want to say they don’t exist, but they are overblown.”
Kelly focused on efforts the police have undertaken to improve intelligence-gathering efforts to prevent another terrorist attack. He said that there has been greater cooperation with the FBI, but that the city was still not getting its fair share of Homeland Security funds given that it remains a high-profile target. He estimated that the city needs twice the amount of federal money it is now receiving.