In 2005 the biggest challenge for Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, was not an external terrorist threat but a domestic natural disaster. In August, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, killing more than a thousand Americans and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), since 2003 subordinate to DHS, bore primary responsibility for providing immediate assistance to victims of natural disasters of this sort and for managing the recovery effort. Accordingly, Chertoff was one of the federal authorities who was faulted for the slowness and inadequacy of the official response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The disjointed actions of his cabinet-level department-despite its confident statements-compounded the human tragedy among those who were stranded or made refugees by the storm.
Learn more about Chertoff, Michael with a free trial on Britannica.com.