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On August 31, 2005, I was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for damaged areas across the Gulf Coast. My arrival in New Orleans came after what was widely believed to be a poor performance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its director Michael D. Brown. We learned a lot about what really works in our Katrina recovery efforts -- but New York and New Jersey seem to be ignoring those lessons.
First, I would like to praise the search and rescue operations in New York and New Jersey. But they could be doing much better now that they've entered the difficult part, the recovery operation.
Where is the command center? Who is in charge? Where is the National Guard?
During the aftermath of Katrina, National Guard troops were positioned on every block to establish a sense of safety and source of help for the people in need. They did not leave communities till people were safe and sound. This has not happened in New York or New Jersey.
The National Guard has served America as both a wartime force and the first military responders in times of domestic crisis. Hundreds of times each year, the nation's governors call upon their Guard troops to respond to fires, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Why did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo only call in half the New York Guard, especially when relief is still not reaching the severely affected communities?
The numbers speak for themselves.
During the Hurricane Katrina disaster, about 20,000 federal troops were mobilized; 20 ships, including a hospital ship, about 50,000 National Guard members and 200 helicopters assisted in the relief efforts. So far, in Sandy relief efforts, about 11,000 National Guard troops were deployed, and only two ships have assisted -- this as people still suffer.
Instead of Doctors Without Borders providing health care to about 300 people in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Hoboken, New Jersey, why wasn't the hospital ship USNS Comfort deployed like it was in Katrina, when it cared for needy people all along the Gulf Coast?
People need food and medical attention. People are still without power, people are still homeless and hungry. Following a logistics model to help those hardest hit is a necessity.
New York and New Jersey need to establish what is called an "enabler" model for recovery, which we developed during Katrina.
SOURCE: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré
Special to CNN
Special to CNN