Skip to main content

Gen. Honoré: Sandy recovery is stumbling

By Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, Special to CNN
November 15, 2012 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
David McCue stands near the roof of his beach house, which was completely demolished by Superstorm Sandy, in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, on Sunday, November 25. <strong><a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/30/us/gallery/sandy-damage/index.html' target='_blank'>See photos of the immediate aftermath of Sandy.</a></strong> David McCue stands near the roof of his beach house, which was completely demolished by Superstorm Sandy, in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, on Sunday, November 25. See photos of the immediate aftermath of Sandy.
HIDE CAPTION
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré asks why New York has ignored all the lessons learned from Katrina
  • Honoré: Sandy recovery has no command center, nobody in charge and no troop presence
  • After Katrina, National Guard was out in force and hospital ship was available, he says
  • FEMA workers complain they have difficulty reaching Sandy storm victims, he says

Editor's note: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré led Task Force Katrina in the aftermath of the hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Gen. Honoré is a senior scientist with The Gallup Organization and the author of "Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters," and the new "Leadership in the New Normal."

(CNN) -- Superstorm Sandy inflicted havoc and heartache throughout the Northeast, hitting the Big Apple and its surrounding coastal towns hard. We have seen this kind of destruction before: I had an up-close-and personal view when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

On August 31, 2005, I was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for damaged areas across the Gulf Coast. My arrival in New Orleans came after what was widely believed to be a poor performance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its director Michael D. Brown. We learned a lot about what really works in our Katrina recovery efforts -- but New York and New Jersey seem to be ignoring those lessons.

First, I would like to praise the search and rescue operations in New York and New Jersey. But they could be doing much better now that they've entered the difficult part, the recovery operation.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré
Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré

Where is the command center? Who is in charge? Where is the National Guard?

During the aftermath of Katrina, National Guard troops were positioned on every block to establish a sense of safety and source of help for the people in need. They did not leave communities till people were safe and sound. This has not happened in New York or New Jersey.

Opinion: Rebuilding after Sandy is too big a risk

The National Guard has served America as both a wartime force and the first military responders in times of domestic crisis. Hundreds of times each year, the nation's governors call upon their Guard troops to respond to fires, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Why did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo only call in half the New York Guard, especially when relief is still not reaching the severely affected communities?

Sandy victims still waiting in the dark
Outrage at LIPA for Sandy response
The Red Cross on delayed Sandy response
Hospital helps victims but pays a cost

The numbers speak for themselves.

During the Hurricane Katrina disaster, about 20,000 federal troops were mobilized; 20 ships, including a hospital ship, about 50,000 National Guard members and 200 helicopters assisted in the relief efforts. So far, in Sandy relief efforts, about 11,000 National Guard troops were deployed, and only two ships have assisted -- this as people still suffer.

Map: See images of destruction, recovery across the East Coast

Instead of Doctors Without Borders providing health care to about 300 people in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Hoboken, New Jersey, why wasn't the hospital ship USNS Comfort deployed like it was in Katrina, when it cared for needy people all along the Gulf Coast?

Opinion: What's next after the superstorm?

People need food and medical attention. People are still without power, people are still homeless and hungry. Following a logistics model to help those hardest hit is a necessity.

New York and New Jersey need to establish what is called an "enabler" model for recovery, which we developed during Katrina.

In this approach, you go in with Guard troops and you distribute food, water and medicine, but you also pick up trash, clean out sewer pipes, clean up hospitals, hook up generators, all in order to enable people to live in their communities. Troops should stay in communities until residents get everything they need to live in their homes, or till they can be evacuated.

New York City went in with food and rescue teams -- but in many cases, community volunteers were left to take up the slack.

News: FEMA's answers for NY storm victims -- put them back in their homes

Some FEMA officials complain that they must drive hours every day to get to the storm victims because New York has not provided them with any living accommodations. What's needed urgently are more disaster recovery offices in every community, where FEMA representatives can stay. People can easily apply for assistance, food stamps, grants for rebuilding or get food and water. This is especially urgent in New York, as poorer communities are at their most vulnerable now, with cold weather coming on and infrastructure still damaged.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most vicious storm systems to hit the New York City area in nearly two centuries. The city seems to be treating the storm more like an inconvenience than a disaster. Katrina offered great lessons for successful recovery operations -- why didn't New York City pay attention?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT