May 07, 2007

Kathleen Sebelius' Political Disaster

Our hearts go out to those in Greensburg, Kansas who have lost family members and friends as a result of this natural disaster. If you know of displaced survivors who have yet to contact their loved ones, or wish to contribute to disaster relief, please contact the American Red Cross.

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I wonder just how accurate this headline is: Iraq War Hampers Kansas Cleanup.

The rebuilding effort in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kansas, likely will be hampered because some much-needed equipment is in Iraq, said that state’s governor.

Governor Kathleen 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 Greensburg administrator estimated that 95 percent of the town of 1500 was destroyed by Friday's tornado.

The Kansas National Guard has about 40 percent of the equipment it is allotted because much of it has been sent to Iraq.

It is true, as Marc Danziger notes, that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said just weeks ago that:

...she fears deployments of Kansas National Guard troops and equipment could hurt the state’s ability to react to disasters on the homefront.

In the same KCBS article cited above, Kansas Rep. Lee Tafanelli (R), a member of the Kansas National Guard, notes that that Kansas Army National Guard still retained 70-80 percent of its manpower.

If the figures provided by the Democratic governor and the Republican State rep and Guardsman are correct, the Army National Guard in Kansas still retains 40%-50% of their heavy equipment and 70%-80% of their manpower, which should be more than adequate to handle geographically narrow and isolated events such as the Greensburg tornado and others that hit Kansas this past Friday.

But please, don't take my word for it. Listen to what the state adjutant general had to say:

"We've been over the town twice now — all of our partners around the state, the experts from cities with technical search-and-rescue," Maj. Gen. Todd Bunting, the state's adjutant general, told CNN Monday morning. "We've done everything we can.

"Some of this rubble is 20, 30 feet deep. That's where we've spent all our efforts, and we'll do it again today."

As Maj. Gen. Bunting notes, they've already been over Greensburg twice, and they are going through the destroyed town of 1,500 again.

While it was no doubt comforting to have the additional manpower and equipment from the National Guard available, it is the state and local emergency personnel with trained search-and-rescue experts that are our best resources for this and similar situations.

Despite an inaccurate claim made by Sebelius on CNN, National Guard soldiers are not first responders, and they never have been. National Guardsmen can only be called to duty in governor-declared states of emergency, or federally, by presidential order.

Our first responders were, and remain, our local and state police, fire, and rescue units. The National Guard is now, and has always been, a reserve force.

Despite the reduction of certain kinds of National Guard equipment in state armories, I suspect that the personnel and equipment that remain at Gov. Sebelius' disposal is more than sufficient to handle the effort at hand. On some level, she seems to agree. Of thousands of National Guardsmen available, she has apparently deployed just 110.

It seems apparent that her anti-war pronouncements and appointments have as much to do with her claims as does any actually shortfall of equipment, and I suspect her words have as much to do with Sebelius' political hopes as it does the reality of Greenburg's battered ground.

Update: Reality bites... for Sebelius, that is:

Pentagon officials are disputing claims that the Iraq war has spread National Guardsmen too thin to respond to a Kansas tornado after the governor and some Democratic lawmakers complained that the Guard are not equipped to help displaced residents.

Kansas has 88 percent of its state Guard forces available, and 83,000 Guardsmen from neighboring states are also on the ready should the state request their assistance, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday, citing National Guard Bureau statistics.

According to Whitman, the Kansas Guard have available 352 Humvees, 94 cargo trucks, 72 dump trucks, 62 five-ton trucks, 13 medium-haul trucks and trailers and 152 2 1/2-ton trucks, a surplus, he noted.

How many of the Kansas National Guard's available 83,000+ men, 393 trucks and 352 Humvees would be required in a town of 1,500?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 7, 2007 03:30 PM

Prayers and best wishes for Greensburg and surrounding areas hit by the recent wicked weather.

I DO wish elected officials would resist the temptation to turn something like this into a chance to take a political jab.

Florida and the Gulf coast have lots of volunteers and donated equipment and material after hurricanes. No doubt Kansas will see similar help over the next couple of weeks. Why doesn't that get a mention from the pols?

Posted by: Retread at May 7, 2007 03:45 PM

give Sebelius her due she has don a lot for the state of kansas but she has always been a lib hack and will always toe the party line no mater what

Posted by: Rich at May 7, 2007 03:48 PM

Many prayers and well wishes go out to those poor folks devasted by this disaster. Go here to help:

A ray of hope: Survivor found in ruble.

This guy (a storm chaser) was one of the first on the scene to offer help. His passenger took some heart wrenching pictures.

As for Kathy (Oz) Sebelius, she's riding her broom on this tragic wind to her 15 minutes of political infamy. Notice how quick CNN picked up on the bush bashing from this witch and her distortions?

Posted by: locomotivebreath1901 at May 7, 2007 05:00 PM

On the ABC Radio news today, someone used the analogy of a burning house. "If your house was burning down, would you want to hear that half the fire department was unavailable?"

Unfortunately, this is not an apt analogy. The primary mission of the fire department is to fight fires in its jurisdiction. The primary mission of the National Guard is as a reserve force for the US Armed Forces.

Just because the Governor occasionally gets to use the NG for some rescue or cleanup detail doesn't mean that that is why it exists.

A better analogy would be if the fire department was also used to clean up the local parks. One day, someone notices the trash cans in the park hadn't been emptied. Upon questioning, it turns out the fire department was too busy fighting fires to empty those cans. "If your house was burning down, would you want to hear that the fire department was too busy emptying trash cans to respond?" "If you were at war, would you want to here that the NG was too busy cleaning up after a tornado to man the lines?"

Posted by: DrTony at May 7, 2007 09:14 PM

Even IF there were less equipment than was needed, the worst that can be said is that civilians, somewhere, at some point, may have to sacrifice something for the war. That's not a new concept, nor is it something that should be used to undermine the war.

What happened to our country?

Posted by: DoorHold at May 7, 2007 09:34 PM

The Florida guard did little other than supply security after Andrew. Cleanup/rebuilding isn't their mission, nor should it be.

This woman is whacked in the head.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at May 8, 2007 12:20 AM

Gee whiz, Bob. Can't an honest Dhimmicrat ever get a fair shake around here? I mean, like, if Chimpy McHitlerburton hadn't repealed that Kyoto thingy there wouldn't have been a tornado to begin with. Ain't that right, Kathleen?

I added an excerpt and link to my 2007.05.08 Dem Perfidy // Islamism Delenda Est Roundup.

Posted by: Bill Faith at May 8, 2007 12:34 AM

Don't blame me, I didn't vote for her.

Prayers for Greensburg.

Posted by: lurking in kansas at May 8, 2007 09:30 AM

it sounds like every single governor is worried about lack of equipment.

Posted by: mark c at May 8, 2007 12:12 PM

here is a shorter link:

also, i didn't think you linked to wikipedia

Posted by: mark c at May 8, 2007 12:15 PM

15 out of 19 Kansas National Guard Helicopters are in Iraq (that's 85%). In many states with rural populations, the National Guard is relied upon to evacuate injured persons to hospitals via chopper. What is the response time for an ambulance to that area in Kansas, an hour? two? more?

Although the NG may have 40-60% of it's total equipment it is lacking much higher percentages of specific vital equipment-- such as helicopters, troop transport vehicles, and heavy tractor trailers.

What if we are attacked on our home soil now? Are we prepared? Are you ready to hear, sorry we can't defend the homeland because we are busy in the middle east? This really scares me and it should you but you're too busy thinking politics to think practicality.

My friends in the NG say "god forbid we get attacked on our own soil because we're gonna look like 100 clowns trying to climb out of a VW bug, rolling up to face the enemy". Where they are stationed, they usually have some 30 troop transport vehicles, currently they have 2-- they pray every day that nothing happens because they know they can't respond.

FYI: The National Guard seems to think that disaster preparedness, response, and recovery are all part of their mission--

Their own recruiting website states "Most likely, your assignments will be somewhere within your home state, because the Guard's main focus is assisting in civil disturbances and natural disasters like blizzards, wildfires and hurricanes. Your tasks will include getting people to safety, delivering supplies, restoring order and other jobs as directed."

Or, "When our nation is in peril due to natural disasters, civil disturbances or enemy threats, the Army National Guard’s Citizen-Soldiers stand proud, trained and ready to protect Americans border to border, coast to coast and around the world.

Also, as of yesterday, according to the National Guard, over 300 Kansas National Guardsmen were called to respond.

Although I may support your cause, it seems to me with your selective quoting and misinformation, you are doing exactly what it is you accuse the gov'ner of-- making political hay out of what should be a very serious issue.

Posted by: jenn at May 8, 2007 01:18 PM

Blanco, part 2.

Posted by: Robert at May 8, 2007 01:42 PM

Other state NG units can be requested, (and for big stuff they are) and surrounding communities usually have Mutual Aid agreements and will be there.

And one quibble - there is a Federal first-response agency: the US Coast Guard (but I doubt they have much of a SAR presence in Kansas).

Posted by: Mikey NTH at May 8, 2007 04:37 PM

In many states with rural populations, the National Guard is relied upon to evacuate injured persons to hospitals via chopper.

Actually, no, they don't.

National Guard units don't keep scramble teams on hand to fly out and rescue people. Even the most "rural" states have many helicopters, run by private ambulance services, to do helicopter evacs. Kansas has at least three different companies that do helicopter air evac 24/7, and a couple of them also do fixed-wing evacs (small airfields are scattered all over the country, if you know where to look).

When the patient is anywhere near a good highway, it's usually better to get them into a good fast ambulance with a full load of gear, anyway. Air evac is seldom a first choice. In a case like Greensburg, they tend to send the Red Cross doctors out to the site, rather than rely on evacsuation (in stormy weather, helicopters aren't good for damaged people).

Posted by: cirby at May 8, 2007 08:38 PM

Dr. Tony,

Stop giving half information

From the National Guard's Home Page

The National Guard has a unique dual mission that consists of both Federal and State roles. For state missions, the governor, through the state Adjutant General, commands Guard forces. The governor can call the National Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, fires, earthquakes or civil disturbances.

The Army National Guard's state mission is perhaps the most visible and well known. Nearly everyone has seen or heard of Guard units responding to battle fires or helping communities deal with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms or other emergency situations. In times of civil unrest, the citizens of a state can rest assured that the Guard will be ready to respond, if needed.

Posted by: DrTony's Concious at May 8, 2007 09:36 PM

After spending a time in the National Guard, I came to understand that we were primarily a standby force to aid the full time military. WWII and Korea were prime examples. But of course that was a time of 'Common Sense' in the USA. The State was the second mission and we did provide security as mentioned in a previous post. We were also the first to be blamed when something did not go as the Liberal Media desired.
The latest trend by the Liberal factions are to ban the recruitment of any military in schools across the nation. To their credit, 'The Fly Over', as the elite west and East coast call middle America, is bucking that unreal trend. Please tell me where that leaves the State in a case of true emergency if, as the politically motivated declare, the National Guards main pupose is?
The 'Liberal' factions aways plentiful Lawyers, would like to legally neuter all police, have the National Guard only for cleanup details, and lastly kick back and have another 'Utopia Latte'.

Posted by: Blogengeezer at May 8, 2007 10:38 PM

"15 out of 19 Kansas National Guard Helicopters are in Iraq (that's 85%). In many states with rural populations, the National Guard is relied upon to evacuate injured persons to hospitals via chopper. What is the response time for an ambulance to that area in Kansas, an hour? two? more?"

LOL. We poor folk in rural Kansas ain't heard of no motorized ambulances have we?

Lordy...please know what you are talking about before you talk about 'that area in Kansas'. You sound like an idiot.

Posted by: Paul at May 9, 2007 03:52 AM

Kathleen Sebelius is an embarassment to our state. She needs to get her own office in order and follow protocol in a disaster situation instead of criticizing our President and our troops.

Posted by: BETTY at May 9, 2007 08:03 AM

I expect no better from a Democrat governor these days, but it really steamed me to have her pathetic assertion repeated as the factual headline of the story: not in quotations, not prefaced by 'Gov. claims' or 'Gov. charges'.

I'm surprised the tornado wasn't hailed as another proof of global warming, while they were at it. Coulda tied up two hissyfits in one tantrum.

Posted by: R. Minor at May 9, 2007 08:03 AM

Over at "In From the Cold," we've been on this story from Day One; fact is, Governor Sebelius has been using this as a political issue from the start.

Consider yesterday's op-ed in the Wichita Eagle, by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. When Senator Roberts spoke with President Bush on Saturday afternoon--almost 24 hours after the storm--Mr. Bush said the only thing he needed for a disaster declaration was a request from the Kansas governor. So, after getting off the phone with the President, Senator Roberts called Sebelius and told her to submit the request. Why did the governor have to wait until Roberts made a phone call? Did she lose the number for the White House, or perhaps her cell service doesn't cover Washington D.C. I find it appalling that Sebelius was already criticizing the federal response when she hadn't bothered to request a disaster declaration.

Additionally, her claims about equipment shortages are misleading. As both DoD and the Guard Bureau stated yesterday, the Kansas Guard has its full allotment of heavy equipment--the stuff you need to clear rubble and haul it away. They also noted that Kansas officials have yet to request outside assistance under the compact that allows them to "borrow" equipment and resources from neighboring states. If the situation was a dire as the governor described, why wasn't her Adjutant General on the horn to the Guard Bureau and his counterparts in Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska, requesting additional equipment and manpower?

And, there's the issue of DoD resources within Kansas that could be (potentially) tapped through the Pentagon and the White House. McConnell AFB in Wichita has its own civil engineering squadron, complete with heavy construction equipment, trucks, generators, and hundreds of trained personnel. To my knowledge, all of those resources are still sitting at McConnell. Ditto for the Army assets at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.

From my perspective, Sebelius is a feckless political hack--even worse that Louisiana's Kathleen Blanco. Even before Katrina slammed ashore, it was obvious that Blanco was in over her head; she faced a catastrophe of enormous proportions, something that she was totally unprepared for. Of course, Blanco played the "blame Washington" card, but the citizens of Louisiana saw through that--a big reason her poll numbers plummeted, and she decided not to run for re-election.

By comparison, Governor Sebelius faced a crisis of managable proportions, but she decided to play politics instead of requesting a disaster declaration in the early hours of the Greensburg disaster. But, she did succeed in reviving the "Katrina" template for the Democratic Party, and that appears to have been her top priority. And I have nothing but contempt for a governor who puts party talking points and coverage themes above the welfare of her own citizens. Sebelius should be thankful that she's not facing re-election in 2008.

More posts on this topic:

Posted by: Spook86 at May 9, 2007 08:09 AM

How predictable, to watch your LIB Gov roll out her " New Orleans whine" routine---"that ol DUBYA did it again"
Want some cheese with that ,darlin ?

Posted by: Don at May 9, 2007 08:11 AM

A minor point, but 15 of 19 is just under 79 percent, not 85 percent as jenn claimed.

Posted by: Peg3n8 at May 9, 2007 08:43 AM

She would be well advised to keep her mouth shut. Gov Kathleen Blanco can't get elected to dog catcher here in La.

FWIW-The Katrina debacle was Louisiana's fault with Kathleen Blanco not leading the way.

Posted by: roux at May 9, 2007 11:15 AM