Too late?

Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, residents there are nervously watching the progress of tropical storm-threatening-to-be-hurricane Gustav. No less nerve-wracking is the knowledge that federal emergency planners have failed to come up with a new strategy for providing housing to disaster victims.

In July — a full year after Congress’ mandated deadline — the Federal Emergency Management Agency produced a skimpy draft proposal. Most of its required topic specialties — including how to house the poor and the disabled, how to house victims close to their jobs and how to manage large camps for evacuees — were left blank. Instead, the proposal called for handing those plans off to a task force of experts. And, oh yes, that task force has yet to be formed.

FEMA officials told Congress that the draft was not a plan “but a precursor to a plan. It is outrageous that this is all the administration can manage to come up with, three years down

the road and as another hurricane season is under way. FEMA’s draft has been two years in the making, yet state emergency managers complain that they were never consulted

for their on-the-ground expertise. The agency promises a finished and effective plan sometime this fall — well after Gustav makes his move.