Monday, May 07, 2007

The Blanco School of Crisis Management

It appears to be a new axiom of American politics and crisis leadership. If you live in a state that's suffered a natural disaster--and you have a Democratic governor--be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Consider this observation from Kathleen Sebelius, the Democrat who has served as Kansas' governor since 2002. After touring the tornado-ravaged town of Greensburg over the weekend, Governor Sebelius stated that the recovery effort will be hampered, because so much of the needed equipment is in Iraq.

Sebelius said much of the National Guard equipment usually positioned around the state to respond to emergencies is gone. She said not having immediate access to things like tents, trucks and semitrailers will really handicap the rebuilding effort...The Kansas National Guard has about 40 percent of the equipment it is allotted because much of it has been sent to Iraq.

Needless to say, that equipment report is a gross over-simplification. Any modern military organization--including the National Guard--with only 40% of its equipment (in all categories) would be rated as C-5, a ranking usually assigned to new units, or those that have been decimated in combat. My guess is that the Kansas Guard is short of equipment in some categories, but it has needed stockpiles of other hardware. But, you've got to give Ms. Sebelius some credit for resurrecting one of her party's post-Katrina talking points, and applying it to a disaster in her own state.

Here's a little challenge for KWCH, KAKE, KSN, The Wichita Eagle, and other media outlets that have been covering the storm. Contact the Kansas Guard Adjutant General's office or his PA staff, and request readiness assessments (C-ratings) for the guard as a whole, and for units in areas affected by the storm. Then, compare those assessments to Governor Sebelius' blanket indictment, and we'll see if she's right, or simply blowing smoke (my money is on option #2).

But, for the sake of fairness, let's suppose that Kansas guard is short of equipment needed to cope with the disaster. That leads us to the leadership question of the day for Governor Sebelius; what are you doing to alleviate the problem? Your state is home to a number of major military installations, including Ft. Riley and McConnell AFB. Both have engineering units that could provide some of the equipment and material needed in Greensburg. And, if those organizations are also tied up in Iraq, how about a formal request to neighboring states? In the aftermath of Katrina, guardsmen from Florida and Texas (among other states) played a key role in relief operations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Guard units from Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska or Oklahoma have engineering, security and medical skills that could be tapped with a simple phone call. Neighboring states are also home to other active duty installations that could provide equipment and support, if Sebelius would only make the call.

Finally, what ever happened to good, old-fashioned enterprise and innovation? Need some heavy equipment to clear away rubble? This may come as a shock to Governor Sebelius, but there are plenty of companies--including some in Kansas--that will rent backhoes, front-end loaders, dump trucks, cranes and the other tools needed for the job. Yes, that might mean shifting funds away from one of the governor's pet projects, but I think most Kansans would agree that the situation in Greensburg takes precedent right now.

Sebelius, on the other hand, seems to be taking a page from the playbook of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who (after Hurricane Katrina) waited for the federal government to ride to the rescue, with disastrous results. Judging from her remarks over the weekend, it looks like Sebelius is already in the "blame Washington" mode--hardly a surprise, since Sebelius is chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association. But, you've got to wonder how well that strategy will play in a state that has always valued self-reliance and helping neighbors. Luckily for Sebelius, she won re-election in 2006. Unfortunately for citizens of Kansas, they've got to put up with her for three more years. In the interim, local leaders in southwestern Kansas would do well to work with their Congressional delegation, and keep the number for Sunbelt Rentals on speed dial. Only three days after the Greensburg tornado, Governor Sebelius is already throwing up her hands in despair.


Christian Lowe said...


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Paul Wilson said...

Sebelius is merely parroting Democrat talking points, and the media gleefully plays along. It didn't take more than 24 hours to blame the tornado's aftermath on George Bush. A bunch of talking heads on CNN this morning and the subtitle was "National Guard Stretched Thin."

I have been to Greensburg on a number of occasions and my wife has family in the area. This is "neighbor helping neighbor" territory. Forget Sunbelt Rentals. I'm sure there are some local construction companies that would donate their time and equipment for a search and rescue operation and to get the streets cleared of debris.

Mike said...

"Your state is home to a number of major military installations, including Ft. Riley and McConnell AFB. Both have engineering units that could provide some of the equipment and material needed in Greensburg."

That's the first thing I thought of. I can't say for certain about McConnell but I know for a fact that Ft. Riley has a large amount of all kinds of heavy equipment and transportation vehicles.

A Reuters story I read quoted Kansas NG officials who said that 20+% of their Humvees and 15 of 19 helos (I'm assuming Black Hawks) were in Iraq. Same article also quoted a Pentagon spokesman who said that in a situation like this other states are supposed to provide aid.

In any case, the bottom line is that any time spent giving the press sound bites bashing Pres. Bush, the federal government, and the war in Iraq is time she isn't spending providing leadership and getting stuff done.

Bitch after the fact when the town is well on the road to recovery. Now's the time to cowboy up and get the job done.

John Cunningham said...

Either Saturday Sunday, Sibelius was bleating about how the Kansas Natl Guard had so much equipment in Iraq that it was hampered, and that Greensburg was having to borrow men and equipment from neighboring counties. I.E., she was admitting that the resources were still there to be used. What a maroon!!

DebbieKinIL said...

Excellent evaluation.

I was thinking why does Pres Bush immediately have to step in to offer help unlimitless Fed help? (Katrina-cancer has spread to other states.) Shouldn't Kansas, heart of twister country, be OVER-prepared for these disasters? Why didn't Sebelius have a plan when she knew 100% of NG resources where not available?

Neighboring states will and do help. When I lived in GA, my friend who worked for a power company spent months restoring power in FL after hurricane damage.

It's a no-brainer. Or does it take a lot of brains to bash Bush for everything?

Joe said...

Gov. Blanco BEGGED for help, since all of Louisiana's National Guard equipment was in Iraq! This is more of the same! Bush was not interested because she's a Dem, and his good buddy "Brownie" ignored her pleas for help. The Corps. of Engineers are to blame, NOT Katrina, because it was their messy designs that caused the flooding. My sympathies to Gov. Sebelius...this bunch of creeps only cares about the price of Halliburton stock (who moved out of the U.S. recently), and other oil interests! Bush runs around HOLDING HANDS with the Saudis remember Osama Bin Lauden?)while our young people come home limbless & lifeless because he wanted to get revenge for his DADDY! God help us!

Unknown said...


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