According to this article in the Christian Science Monitor, President Bush may be looking to amend the Posse Comitatus Act.
WASHINGTON – As Washington picks through the lessons learned from hurricane Katrina, there is a growing conviction that the only organization with the skills, expertise, and resources needed to respond quickly to a catastrophe of such magnitude is the American military.The vast majority of Americans, I would guess, do not have the institutional or historical awareness to understand why we do not let our soldiers act as our police, so if there's any resistance to relaxing this act, it's going to come from the usual suspects: the far Left and the far Right.
President Bush suggested a larger disaster relief role for the armed forces in his national address last week, and Congress has indicated it will take up the issue this autumn. Though the topic has emerged at other troubled times - most recently 9/11 - Congress has always avoided amending Posse Comitatus, the law that has kept active-duty soldiers out of civilian law-enforcement affairs since Reconstruction.
Anger over the scenes of chaos in New Orleans in the days after the hurricane, however, seems to have shifted the political landscape. It is an issue of profound importance both to the Pentagon and to the country at large, raising questions about the boundaries between the armed forces and American society - as well as the military's ability to press the war on terror abroad if it receives a new homeland mission.
"There's a strong historical precedent against doing this," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution here. "But now we've got a real reason."
The far Right (e.g., the militia types) would oppose an end to the Posse Comitatus Act because that's their greatest fear ---at least hypothetically: a police state with all the bells and whistles that the greatest military on Earth can bring to bear.
The far Left, however, would oppose any such move just because it's something that Bush is in favor of. That is, the Left has only a partisan reason against deploying troops in a disaster area. They wouldn't oppose it if there was some civil right in danger, but if it's simply a matter of protecting whitey's electronics store from [hungry] citizens, then to hell with it. Fascist!
When our military did start moving into New Orleans, order was restored very quickly and efficiently. Our best and bravest always demonstrate their value. They could have come in sooner when it was apparent that too many of the local police in New Orleans were worthless cowards, but this President wasn't going to violate Posse Comitatus.
But for all those who wanted a stronger and quicker Federal involvement in the aftermath of Katrina, there really can't be any question: the United States military are the most logistically and operationally prepared men and women in the world. When they shoot, they score. I don't fear our people in uniform to know what to do and how to do it. I trust and respect them absolutely. If putting them on the ground in a disaster area is the best way to enforce the will of the people and to execute the plans of the Commander-in-Chief and the lesser executives, then let's do it.