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Monday, May 24, 2010

Bureaucracy in the Gulf

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has expressed frustration with the federal government's slow response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He has said that the state will not await federal approval to start building sand barriers.

In the textbook (p. 467), we quote from an article that then-Representative Jindal wrote in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005:

There have already been a number of instances in which an overly inhibitive bureaucracy prevented an appropriate response to the disaster. For example, on Wednesday of last week a company called my office. With only three hours before rising waters would make the mission impossible, they were anxious to send a rescue helicopter for their stranded employees. They wanted to know who would give them a go-ahead.

We could not identify the agency with authority. We heard that FEMA was in charge, that the FAA was in charge, and that the military was in charge. I went in person to talk with a FEMA representative and still could not get a straight answer. Finally we told the company to avoid interfering with Coast Guard missions, but to proceed on its own. Sometimes, asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.