The federal government deserved the rave reviews it earned for its responses to back-to-back hurricanes in Texas and Florida. The Federal Emergency Management Agency worked well with state and local officials and predeployed key resources and personnel. It seemed as though Washington had learned from its failed response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yet as President Trump visits a Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria, cheers for FEMA have turned to boos. What went wrong?
First, Puerto Rico is an island. Getting resources in place before landfall was much more difficult than using the Interstate Highway System to move people and supplies. A FEMA official told me that "to say it's logistically challenging is an understatement."