The Bush administration is reviewing a plan to increase the president’s power to dispatch troops after a disaster and to give them law enforcement duties, reports the Los Angeles Times. The study stems partly from its frustration over the inability to negotiate an agreement on chain of command with Louisiana’s governor shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, reportedly believes that some change might be needed in the 19th century law that restricts use of the military on U.S. soil, known as the Posse Comitatus Act. The federal government is largely prohibited from using the military for law enforcement; the only exception is when there is an insurrection against the government’s authority. The last time the insurrection exception was invoked was during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Tthe emergency response plans drawn up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks are premised on the notion that local police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews are the most effective first responders and that state-controlled National Guards are the next.