05:38 PM

Chertoff Says IT Weaknesses Hurt Katrina Response

Homeland Security Secretary chief Michael Chertoff told a U.S. Senate committee that his department needs better communications, software, and hardware.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff took responsibility for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina Wednesday, but he also blamed the department's inability to conduct surveillance, communicate efficiently, track shipments, and handle Web traffic.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Chertoff said the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency need interoperability, hardened communications, a tracking system for shipments, improved surveillance resources, upgraded software and better hardware.

"FEMA employees did the best they could under these conditions with the resources they had," he said. "Despite this remarkable effort, FEMA's logistics systems simply were not up to the task of handling a truly catastrophic event. FEMA lacks the technology and information management systems to effectively track shipments and manage inventories."

Chertoff also said the department needs more capacity on its Web site and modernized information technology and computer systems for disaster registration and processing. FEMA should have a Web site that can handle up to 200,000 registrations daily, he said.

Without hardened communications equipment, leaders could not obtain the information they need to make proper decisions during disasters, Chertoff said. He described communication channels that pass information from one source to another, instead of from one source to many others.

Improvements are underway, but the department has to come up with agreements for supply chain management and real-time monitoring, Chertoff said.

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