Above all, spend no money
It strikes me that one possible explanation for the feeble FEMA response is that the directive from within Homeland Security was for FEMA to sit on the sidelines showing itself ever at the ready (so many mre's shipped, blah, blah, blah) until local and state resources were exhausted. The FEMA guys would come in only for targeted events when the cameras were rolling. That's one way to understand "Brownie's" injunction in his memo to his staff before Katrina hit to ``convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public.''
While all the rest of us were thinking that Homeland Security was funded to direct and coordinate first responders in the case of an attack or catastrophe, Chertoff and Brownie saw themselves as backups whose first job was to keep federal expenditures as low as possible (how else are you going to justify further tax cuts?) even as FEMA patches and t-shirts were prominently displayed. Now the people in the Mississippi & Louisiana gulf have paid dearly--and so will we all.