Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco “failed to ask for more [National Guard] troops from the feds, knowing she only had about 6,000 to control a city of 1.3 million” and that "[i]t was not until Wednesday, August 31st, three days after the storm hit, that Blanco admitted she didn't have enough security in the city." But according to Department of Defense officials, Blanco and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had requested additional Guard personnel before the storm hit.
As Gen. Russel Honoré, commander of the Department of Defense's (DoD) Joint Task Force Katrina, stated in a September 1 briefing, the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi had requested additional assistance from the federal government “as the hurricane was approaching,” beginning with a request on August 26 that DoD command centers be set up in their states. And by August 28, Mississippi and Louisiana were collaborating with the National Guard Bureau to have additional security forces sent in.
From the September 1 Department of Defense briefing:
LAWRENCE DiRITA (Pentagon spokesman): You know -- it's Larry DiRita -- I think what people are interested in, if you know, is when specifically or if indeed did the governors specifically ask for additional security forces and when that might have been? And if you don't know that, we'll try and find it, but that would be -- I think that's a little more refined aspect of what the reporter's asking for.
HONORÉ: Yeah, that was incremental. The security force piece was executed through a process called EMAC [Emergency Management Assistance Compact]. That started on Sunday, a collaboration between the [states' National Guard] adjutant general and the National Guard Bureau to flow additional capabilities to Louisiana and to Mississippi. That flow started approximately around Sunday. Forces started moving once the eye of the hurricane had passed and we could start moving forces in and assist the states, Alabama pushed forces into Mississippi as well as forces from Texas started to flow into Louisiana, as well as other states. But that's the approximate phase of the operation. Again, that was executed through National Guard arrangements to move National Guard capability where it's needed. And that is what is happening, an extension of that, now.
The Associated Press reported that Blanco had accepted an offer for additional troops from New Mexico the day before the hurricane hit, but that help was delayed by paperwork needed from Washington:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.
While O'Reilly placed the blame on Blanco for the delay in the National Guard deployment, the AP reported that “questions linger about the speed with which troops were deployed” and that Congress will likely investigate. AP stated that “Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress are just beginning to ask why one of the National Guard's most trusted roles -- disaster relief -- was so uneven, delayed and chaotic this time around,” citing paperwork delays, the depletion of Guard units due to troop deployment in Iraq, and President Bush's decision to not exercise his legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself, as well as the timing of the governors' requests, as possible factors.
From the September 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Now, Governor Blanco also made major mistakes. After asking and getting the federal government to declare the hurricane zone a disaster area two days before the storm hit, the governor failed to send any National Guard troops in to secure New Orleans and the surrounding parishes before the storm. Why? She also failed to ask for more troops from the feds, knowing she only had about 6,000 to control a city of 1.3 million. Why not ask for more? Like the mayor, Governor Blanco has no explanation. Surely she knew the potential for chaos. Why not send the Guard in immediately? Then, when the levees were breached, the Guard found itself unable to get into New Orleans. They're outside. It was not until Wednesday, August 31st, three days after the storm hit, that Blanco admitted she didn't have enough security in the city.