United States Coast Guard Commandant Thomas
H. Collins testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Science and Technology and the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities on responding to catastrophic events. His written statement identified the Coast Guard’s primary missions in disaster response (saving lives, security and reconstitution, hazardous material response, and support to other agencies), and discussed how the strengths and weaknesses of the organization affect its ability to perform them. Perhaps most significantly, the report addressed the ineffectiveness of the government’s response to hurricane Katrina; stating that reorganization is necessary; that focus should be on improving communications between first and second level responders; and that preparation for future disasters (hinging on relationships between all levels of government) is essential. The testimony of Rear Admiral Robert F. Duncan, Commander, Eighth Coast Guard District complemented that of Collins. Duncan echoed Collins’ assertion of the importance of communication among all levels of government as well as preparedness. Due largely to these, Duncan called his unit’s response to Katrina a success, adding that hurricanes are “a way of life” on the Gulf Coast, so training for their damage is a routine part of Coast Guard operations.