A U.S. Senate subcommittee heard stinging criticism yesterday of the nation’s lack of readiness to respond to terrorist attacks or natural disasters, and administration officials most responsible for correcting the problems didn’t attend, reports the Arizona Republic. The federal government’s “utterly inadequate” response to Hurricane Katrina “calls for dramatic changes,” former Sen. Slade Gorton testified. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az.), who chaired the hearing, bemoaned the nation’s slowness in solving problems certain to arise in emergencies. “A moderately sophisticated terrorist attack could easily replicate the type and amount of damage caused by this natural disaster,” he said.
Kyl called it “highly regrettable” that no representatives of the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense attended. Witnesses cited the inability of police, firefighters and other first-responders to communicate with one another as a major flaw in preparedness. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution testified that the government has made considerable progress in protecting against terrorism but serious weaknesses remain in such sectors as regulation of private aircraft, guarding against chemical and biological weapons, ensuring that borders are secure. and gathering intelligence.