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Choices and Consequences

 

J.D. Pendry

 

One of the first lessons we teach Soldiers in is about personal responsibility.Itís a lesson that leaders constantly reinforce.Without personal responsibility, which makes individual readiness possible, the military fails.We remind Soldiers of something that they may not have heard so plainly before entering the service.Choices have consequences.When you have time, weigh the consequences before you make the choice.When you make a choice, the consequences of it become your responsibility.For a well-known example of how this works, review the Jessica Lynch story.Individuals with weapons not properly maintained, were not able to fight back.You know the consequences.

 

Following Katrina and the levee break in New Orleans, itís plain that many people do not follow that simple principle.

 

It caused me to take inventory.In our world of potentially disastrous terrorist attacks, I looked around to see how ready I was to look after my wife and myself.We donít have a supply of food and water squirreled away.We donít have extra flashlight and radio batteries, candles or lanterns.There is no prepared ďsurvival kitĒ to toss into the truck.And, after watching the idiots looting and shooting, my house is not well armed.Those things are my responsibility to fix Ė and I will.I hope all Americans will review the status of the true first responder.

 

The first level of response in New Orleans and the other areas affected by the storm lies with individuals.With sufficient warning it was, in many cases, a personal choice to remain in the area.As they drain the cesspool, formerly known as the Big Easy, please take note of the number of automobiles sitting in the sewage.Each one of them represents a choice made by individuals who could have left the city with their families.What I havenít heard, you may have but I havenít, is very many of them taking responsibility for their decisions to stay.Choices have consequences.

 

There were people that did not have the means, other than shoe leather, to leave the city.The government is responsible to help evacuate them from the danger.That starts at the municipal level.The mayor of New Orleans didnít implement the parts of his evacuation plan that called for using all available resources to evacuate people that didnít have the means to do it themselves.

 

The City of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas....Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life saving assistance.Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed.

 

Hundreds of busses sat until they were under water and useless.

 

City officials had 550 municipal buses and hundreds of additional school buses at their disposal but made no plans to use them to get people out of New Orleans before the stormÖThe Houston Chronicle

 

Choices have consequences.The mayor did not take responsibility for the consequences of his choice.

 

More Army Corps of Engineers project money poured into the state of Louisiana than to any other state in the country.

 

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular.But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large. Ė The Washington Post

 

Louisiana politicians, which include all of their representatives in Washington as well as those sitting at the capitol in Baton Rouge, need to take responsibility for the consequences of the choices they made.

 

We use another technique in the Army that politicians might consider.We call it an After Action Review.The key words here are After Action.After people are accounted and cared for and cities back on track toward restoration then we review the actions taken.We determine what went well, what didnít go well and what we have to do to improve our performance next time.There is no blame handed out and we donít bring people in front of television cameras and fire nonsensical political speeches at them.We donít need another bogus commission to sort out our response to Katrina.Politicians would do well to review their approach to problem solving and performance improvement and should weigh carefully the consequences of the one they select.

 

There is one more concern.Weíve heard it said repeatedly that the federal government was to slow to react.Itís as if some think the federal government should have been the first responder pushing municipal and state government aside from the outset.Do you really want the federal government to take control of emergency management state by state?If you do, remember that choices have consequences.

 

Copyright © J. D. Pendry

 

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J.D. Pendry is author of The Three Meter Zone

 

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