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Panel headed by Senator Jim Inhofe to review FEMA response

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said he plans to launch a Senate investigation into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said he expects a review into whether including FEMA under the Department of Homeland Security resulted in a slower response.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has been criticized for allegedly having a sluggish response to the disaster.

``Maybe the answer is no, but we are going to find out,'' Inhofe told the Tulsa World on Sunday.

FEMA came under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works before the transfer, Inhofe said.

``When they wanted to move it into the super agency, I didn't object to it,'' Inhofe said. ``I did voice that I hoped it would make it more responsive, not less. Now it appears it wasn't quite as responsive as before. ``

Inhofe said FEMA was very responsive in reaction to the 1999 tornadoes, which ripped through Oklahoma.

In June of 2002, President Bush proposed merging the previously independent agency into the Department of Homeland Security. The merger occurred in March 2003.

He cautioned against pointing fingers and blaming people.

Local officials were hit hard and quickly, he said, adding that he is sure confusion resulted.

``That is probably where the breakdown was,'' Inhofe said. ``We certainly can't blame them. This is something that never happened in the history of America. The magnitude is so overwhelming. It is understandable people can't respond in a way that will look rational.''

He said the nation learned a valuable lesson from the tragedy.

Given the capability of tracking Hurricane Katrina and the forewarning given, a lot more could have been done to prepare and was not done, he said.

``I think that every mayor of every city in America has learned a lesson that will not be forgotten,'' Inhofe said.
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