The Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS has
released a report that critically examines the U.S.
government's role in managing offers of foreign assistance
received in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last August.
Immediately after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the
British government, for example, sent the United States
500,000 ready-to-eat meals for hungry victims, but the food
went uneaten after the Department of Agriculture blocked
its distribution for fear of spreading mad cow disease.
On the first anniversary of Katrina, the author of
Role Reversal: Offers of Help From Other Countries in
Response to Hurricane Katrina sheds light on this and
other incidents that occurred as the U.S. government, she
said, resisted or mishandled offers of foreign aid. The
report is based primarily on interviews with key U.S.
government and international experts and diplomats.
"During this hurricane season, we should resolve to
act on the lessons from Katrina and improve America's
ability to cope with the next disaster," said the study's
author, Anne C. Richard, a fellow at the Center for
Transatlantic Relations and vice president for government
relations and advocacy at the International Rescue
Offers from other countries poured into the United
States after the hurricane struck on Aug. 29, 2005, but
President Bush vowed on Sept. 1 that "this country's going
to take care of it," and FEMA managers argued that
international help was not needed. Even after the State
Department reversed course and welcomed outside aid, there
was no system in place to vet the offers and donations,
such as the British food. In her report, Richard tracks the
final disposition of the meals, which went mostly to needy
people in Eastern Europe.
In conclusion, Richard recommends steps the government
and international community should take before the next
large-scale disaster strikes America, including adoption of
a uniform list of goods for stockpiling and use in crises.
Throughout, Richard makes the case that effective crisis
response is an important part of international security.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, Richard will discuss her
findings at a forum hosted by SAIS. The event will take
place at 9 a.m. in room 500 of the Bernstein-Offit