Although our government may have failed in its responsibilities, there are millions of people volunteering and helping out of their own pockets.
There is a lot of finger pointing going on, but in the wrong direction. Look at what is going on in Mississippi and Alabama. Those operations are going much more smoothly, thanks in large part to better preparedness and cooperation of State, Local, and Federal officials.
Everyone wants to know, "Where were the troops?" The Posse Comitatus Act limits the use of US military forces for civilian purposes. There are other statutes that also restrict federal intervention in State matters, even in emergencies. The sovereignty of the individual states is protected under our constitution. Therefore, the governors MUST ask the federal government for help before the federal government can get involved. It is the Governors who mobilize the National Guard in their states, not the Federal Government, UNLESS they are federalized at they Governor's request. And it is the Governors who must make requests for specific types of disaster assistance.
Governor Blanco of Louisiana delayed mobilizing the National Guard, the forces of which were inadequate to handle the needs left by Katrina in New Orleans alone. President Bush couldn't send in more troops without violating Posse Comitatus. The Governor bears the blame for dragging her feet, when additional troops were waiting for the call to go in and help. And the Mayor Nagin bears the blame for not following his own emergency plans, which call for a 72-hour evacuation order prior to a category 3 hurricane. His mandatory evacuation order was issued only 24 hours before the hurricane hit! After the woefully inadequate evacuation for Hurricane Ivan just a year ago, Mayor Nagin acknowledged that they needed a better plan; but he didn't heed his own advice, did he?!
The simple fact is that, by law, State and Local Emergency Officials are the first responders to disasters in their regions. They are responsible for emergency planning and preparedness. In the event of a disaster, the Federal government provides coordination and assistance, by request of the governor.
Now, you want to know why food and water was kept out of the shelters in New Orleans? Read this Red Cross Hurricane Katrina FAQ. Interesting, huh? This is the fault of State and Local emergency people, not your federal government.
And, if you think that we should just ignore Posse Comitatus, well think of places like China and Cuba; and be glad you live in a place where renegade politicians don't have the authority to put tanks and soldiers on YOUR street at will.
Personally, I believe that the response of our federal government to a disaster of this magnitude has been pretty impressive, despite the ineptness of Louisiana's politicians!