Akaka to push for Homeland Security office in the Islands
Sen. Daniel Akaka yesterday said plans to improve national response to disasters and threats against the nation must include a Homeland Security office in Hawai'i.
Akaka, in a written statement from Washington, D.C., said he will be discussing Hawai'i's specific security needs with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff when the beleaguered Bush administration official testifies today before Congress.
Meanwhile, Hawai'i joins West Virginia as the only two states admitting that their basic emergency response plans do not meet federal standards.
Civil Defense officials in Honolulu could not immediately provide details of the self-assessment prepared for the Department of Homeland Security to which 49 states responded. Only Wyoming did not.
Akaka said that because Hawai'i is 5,000 miles from Washington, it is "critically important" that a Homeland Security outpost be set up in the Islands.
"Any plan to repair the systemic failures in the Department of Homeland Security must include the establishment of regional offices," said Akaka, D-Hawai'i.
A permanent office in the Gulf Region might have prevented some of the federal and state response failures after last year's Hurricane Katrina, Akaka said.
Such an office in Hawai'i would establish a relationship between state and federal disaster relief officials, he said, and would provide one clear Homeland Security contact for the state.
"Our state has no neighbors that can provide materiel support, facilitate evacuation or mitigate the effects of a catastrophic incident," Akaka warned. The only outside help, he said, would have to come from the federal government.
Akaka said he had conveyed that message to Chertoff and to his predecessor, Tom Ridge.
Chertoff is set to testify today before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which Akaka is a member.