Letters

Not a Good Idea

"Swamped" (February) shows how the National Flood Insurance Program, created with the best of intentions, actually causes more problems than it solves. It states that forcing people to buy the insurance "discourages people from living in flood-prone areas." Later we are told that the number of homes insured has more than tripled in the past 30 years to 4.7 million in 2004. Some discouragement! The ability to get flood insurance is actually an incentive to build in unsafe areas because owners now feel protected. Congress never thinks through the implications, especially economic, when starting a new program. We taxpayers always end up picking up the bill.

James Trent Corbett

Answering the Call

You missed a critical point in "Missed Signals" (February). There was one communications service working during Hurricane Katrina, providing communications across multiple agencies, and relaying messages across the country: amateur radio.

At recent congressional hearings, while other services were explaining why things did not work, Congress commended Harold Kramer, chief operating officer of the American Radio Relay League, the national association of amateur radio, because he was the only person to come before them and explain how this emergency service not only did work, but worked better than anyone expected.

Using HF, VHF, UHF, IRLP and Winlink2000 to provide e-mail capabilities, packet and other digital modes, about 1,000 hams were involved following Katrina, and hundreds more provided relays across the country. They were used by the Coast Guard, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Baptist men's groups, many local and regional emergency centers, mobile units, fire departments, even New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Hams were in hospitals and clinics, shelters and anywhere they were needed. It was via ham radio that the first reports of breaks in the levees were passed on. It was via ham radio that New Orleans police reported lootings.

While you are correct that professional agencies need to build far more robust and interoperable systems, these "amateurs" performed professionally in many ways and should not be overlooked. Their motto, "When all else fails-amateur radio!" has proved far too true over the years as they provide the coordination you write about-hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, the shuttle Columbia recovery effort, the 9/11 attacks and more.

Allen Pitts, W1AGP
Media and Public Relations Manager
American Radio Relay League

What It Takes

This is the first time in my 25 years of working for the federal government that I have seen an excellent article about what makes a federal employee tick and keep on ticking ("The Trust Factor," March 1). Unfortunately for the dedicated civil servant, corporate government cannot and does not want to understand this. Corporate government does not understand the relationship required between the working level and management. All one has to do is look at how corporate America has decimated its dedicated workforce. Corporate government has the same mind-set, and it is causing one of the greatest nations in recent history to start collapsing.

The bottom line: Without a dedicated workforce that cares about what it does and knows it won't get screwed in the end, there is no company and no federal government.

Linda Lefker
Washington
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