Here are some words from someone outside the agency, at the Village Voice nonetheless:
In this hurricane, the one government agency on the ball is the Coast Guard, a highly decentralized agency now stuck within the Homeland Security maze. With only 40 aircraft, it pulled off over 1,000 rescues yesterday.Mr. Ridgeway, I hate to burst your bubble but...
This is what we do.
And, we could be doing it so much better. Our command cadres in the Gulf region are spread from Alexandria to St. Louis to Houston. I'm not talking decentralized, I'm talking we evac'd to different spots... and now we have a little difficulty talking to each other... or so it appears from a thousand miles away.
Atlantic Area has 116 small boat crews standing by, ready to deploy. Some of these crews have their own boats; others are just crews. We're standing by, waiting for the call to begin rolling into the impacted areas.
Great debate swirls around me. We wait, because we need to know where we're going and who we're working for and, this hurts, who's paying for it? Some of our crews -- probably most of them -- are self sufficient for up to a week. They have food, and recreational vehicles, and tents, and water... And cash and credit cards.
They're mobilized... chomping at the bit... they got their tetanus shots... and they've gotten current at the range (remember, due to the nature of events, we travel armed underway)...
And now, we hold.
I think we're waiting for FEMA to open the funding spigot.
There are plenty of us who want to just press on. We've got informal contacts with the various command centers in the impacted areas. We know that we could get our Coasties to a place where they'd be able to rescue people... people are stuck in their attics, driven up by the rising waters, and now can't get out... or the water continues to rise... And we want, so very desperately, to deploy our assets so they can start doing what it is they do best.
As a colleague said (and, unlike USA Today, I'll go with an un-named source here), "This is the nation's biggest natural disaster ever. And we're waiting for someone to hit the go button while people die."
So, Mr. Ridgeway, we may look like we're on the ball... but we could be doing so much better. What you see is us standing on a beach ball; what we want to be doing is standing on the beach ball while juggling chain saws and bowling balls. That, sir, would be us on the ball.