Cablegate: Hurricane Katrina and Canadian Response; Lessons

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

131910Z Oct 05






FEMA (Office of the Director)

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Hurricane Katrina and Canadian Response; Lessons

1. Summary: Operational linkages between DHS and Canada's
Public Safety Ministry (PSEPC) worked reasonably well as
Canada responded to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina. But, to make those connections even more
effective, Canada would like to have a DHS Liaison Officer
stationed at the Canadian operations center in Ottawa, and
would like the PSEPC Liaison Officer now assigned to DHS HQ
to be inside the DHS Operations Center. PSEPC feels also
that other linkages need to be strengthened (such as in
emergency response policy and planning) with DHS. To ensure
that Canada-U.S. disaster management and response is as
robust as possible, Embassy and GoC officials agreed it is
time to reinvigorate the "Consultative Group on
Comprehensive Civil Emergency Planning and Management" as
mandated by the 1986 Canada-U.S. Agreement on Cooperation in
Comprehensive Civil Emergency Planning and Management.
Embassy plans on following up by hosting a bilateral meeting
in Ottawa before the end of the year with DHS,
Northcom, State, their Canadian counterparts, and other
interested agencies, to advance this agenda. End summary.

2. James Young, Canada's Special Advisor to the Deputy
Minister at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
(PSEPC) and Ross Hynes, the Director of the Secretariat for
the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force at Foreign
Affairs Canada (FAC) joined the DCM for lunch on Friday,
October 6, along with several other Embassy, PSEPC and FAC
staff members for a discussion of Canada's assistance to the
United States in response to Hurricane Katrina (see para 16
for participant list). All present agreed that the Canadian
response was timely and generous, and that the deep links
between the two countries allowed for multiple channels of
communication and action. Bob Lesser, the Director General
of Operations for PSEPC and Craig Oldham, the Director of
PSEPC's Government Operations Center noted that the PSEPC
operational link with the DHS Homeland Security Center
worked well; especially so because PSEPC has recently posted
an employee to DHS HQ.

PSEPC and DHS Liaison

3. Young and Lesser mentioned that PSEPC sees great value in
having its liaison officer at DHS HQ placed within the DHS
Homeland Security Operations Center in order to gain greater
situational awareness. This would create an even more
effective link between PSEPC and DHS during emergencies and
disasters. Currently the Liaison Officer has an office
separate from the Ops Center. Lesser and Oldham noted that
the issue of security clearances is a barrier to their
Liaison Officer gaining full access to the DHS Center; but
that models exist (for example at NORAD and NATO) to
overcome this barrier. (Comment - This came up during
several visits last year by senior DHS officials, such as
Admiral Loy who indicated he would try to work through the
clearance issues. With so much information and intelligence
already available to GOC through other channels it strikes
us as odd that we continue to have this restriction as we
work to improve seamless coordination on border security and
emergency response.) Lesser also mentioned that PSEPC is
keenly interested in having DHS station a DHS Liaison
Officer within the PSEPC Government Operations Center in

4. Oldham described the role of Canada's Government
Operations Center as providing a strategic coordination
function for the national response. That is, it provides a
central node to identify, track, and - ideally - to
coordinate federal, provincial and local response. Another
department such as National Defence or Transport Canada,
depending upon that organization's technical expertise and
equipment, may lead the actual operational response. Oldham
added, however, that because Provinces have broad
jurisdiction in emergency response, command and control of
disaster management is not as clear as it would be in a
unitary state such as the UK or France.

5. Although operational coordination between DHS and PSEPC
was smooth, largely because of the PSEPC Liaison Officer's
presence at DHS HQ, Lesser, Oldham and Young noted that at
the policy coordination level for emergency management there
remains some confusion about where and how the two
organizations should connect. For example PSEPC's emergency
planning predecessor, the Office of Critical Infrastructure
Protection and Emergency Preparedness (OCIPEP) had a strong
connection with FEMA. The shifting status of FEMA within
DHS and the absorption of OCIPEP into PSEPC has attenuated
somewhat those pre-existing linkages. PSEPC believes that
it is critical to invigorate linkages between the emergency
planning and response policy communities in these two new

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Coordination with Provinces; Provincial and Private Aid
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

6. With respect to the differing jurisdictions that have a
role to play, PSEPC's James Young offered his view that
Katrina and other recent emergencies underscore that the
role of governments is changing. Issues don't cascade
smoothly from the municipal to provincial (or state) to
federal level as they once did. He emphasized that it is
important now to get all levels of government involved at an
earlier stage. Young, who has a background in medicine,
illustrated his point by noting that in the case of an
influenza pandemic, even though the primary response will be
provincial, there will need to be a consistent response
nationwide which will require very early and close
coordination between the federal, provincial, and local

7. The unparalleled relationship between Canada and the
U.S., with its hundreds of millions of border crossings each
year, coupled with a completely integrated energy
infrastructure (a prime CIP asset) and the proximity of
major Canadian cities to the U.S. border (approximately 80
percent of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of
the United States border), suggest that to be as robust as
possible emergency preparedness planning must fully include
the Canada-U.S. dimension. For example one avenue of aid
contribution could be the ability of provinces to provide
resources (perhaps first responder units) to "backfill" for
northern states that send their own resources to help other
states in need. That is, Canadian resources could be seen
as a force multiplier that allows rapid response from U.S.
states to afflicted regions, and vice versa.

8. On a related note, Craig Oldham cautioned, that there
needs to be consideration of resources and redundancy by the
provincial and federal governments. For example when
Vancouver's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Team went
to Louisiana, as they did for Katrina, it was necessary to
identify who could respond to an emergency in Vancouver
while the HUSAR team was absent.

9. Emboffs described also the phenomenon of private sector
offers of aid and asked how those were tracked by PSEPC.
Lesser and Oldham noted that they had a long list of private
offers which they had forwarded to DHS, but that they were
not always certain which offers had been acted upon. All
agreed that there were many cases of private aid efforts
that were not communicated or coordinated through the
federal government. In one instance, for example, the
Embassy was aware of chartered aircraft carrying Canadian
volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) to the
affected Gulf States. The effort was arranged and managed
solely via informal routes within the Canadian and American
EMT community. There may be a need to more explicitly
recognize this type of interaction in joint Canada - United
States emergency planning.

View from Foreign Affairs

10. Ross Hynes mentioned that although nominally Foreign
Affairs had the lead in coordinating the Canadian response
to Katrina, that the role was shared because of the existing
PSEPC-DHS links; there were no turf issues at the
operational level. Whether communication went through PSEPC-
DHS or FAC-State channels was immaterial as far as they were
concerned. Tobi Nussbaum, Director of the U.S. Relations
Division at FAC, added that there was another level of
communication as well, i.e. between Canadian military and
foreign affairs officers at NORAD/Northcom and Canadian
authorities at FAC and Department of National Defence (DND).

11. Hynes told us that the GOC will be compiling an internal
lessons-learned on the Katrina response, and invited U.S.
participation in that exercise. They plan to address, inter
alia, an inventory of challenges such as: consular access;
channels of aid offers; the FEMA-PSEPC link; and approval
process for use of DND assets.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Next steps: Establish U.S.- Canada Group under the 1986
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

12. The DCM summed up by saying it would indeed be useful to
create an index of issues from the lessons learned and
have Canadian and American officials work together to
prepare a full lessons learned report as suggested by Ross

13. Both the Canadian and American participants at the
luncheon agreed that the 1986 bilateral agreement on
"cooperation in comprehensive civil emergency planning and
management" allows for a broad array of actions and should
still be an effective strategic blueprint and broad-brush
guide for Canada and the United States to provide assistance
in case of disasters.
14. But to address specific planning, and to address some of
the gaps identified in the Katrina response, it may be time
to reinvigorate the Consultative Group on Comprehensive
Civil Emergency Planning and Management as mandated in
Article I of the Agreement. The Consultative Group, which
is described (in Annex I of the Agreement) as being
responsible for supervising Canada-United States
comprehensive civil emergency planning and management, for
both peacetime and times of hostilities, is tasked with,
inter alia: recommending to the two governments actions to
be taken regarding studies, the exchange of information, and
the development and coordination of plans and
recommendations; encouraging and facilitating planning and
development of mutual cooperation for comprehensive civil
emergency management by provinces, states and
municipalities; and the group may invite other federal,
regional, provincial, state or local authorities and
representatives of the private sector to meetings of the
working groups, as appropriate, with the prior consent of
both Parties. Thus it seems the ideal forum and body to
address the bilateral assistance questions raised during the
Katrina response.

15. To precipitate an invigorated Consultative Group on
Comprehensive Civil Emergency Planning and Management the
Embassy plans on hosting a bilateral meeting in Ottawa
before the end of the year with participation from DHS, from
Department of Defense (in particular from Northern Command)
from State, along with their Canadian counterparts, and
other interested agencies. Embassy will be in contact with
Washington agencies in the next few weeks to identify
appropriate participants.


16. US Embassy: DCM John Dickson, Political Minister-
Counselor Brian Flora, DHS Attach John Considine, Economic
Officer Lucy Abbott, Economic Specialist Bud Locklear. GoC:
James Young, Special Advisor to the Deputy Minister PSEPC;
Bob Lesser, DG Operations, PSEPC; Craig Oldham, Director
Operations Center, PSEPC; Ross Hynes, Director, Secretariat
for the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, FAC;
Tobias (Toby) Nussbaum, Director, U.S. Relations Division,


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