Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he accepts responsibility for what he calls the "many lapses" surrounding the response to Hurricane Katrina.
He's on Capitol Hill, facing sharp criticism from a Senate committee.
The Republican chairwoman of the panel, Maine Senator Susan Collins, says the Department of Homeland Security's performance "must be judged a failure."
She called it "late, uncertain and ineffective."
The panel's top Democrat, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, says disaster workers "ran around like Keystone cops, uncertain about what they were supposed to do or uncertain how to do it."
Lieberman criticized Chertoff for going to Atlanta for an unrelated conference the day after the storm slammed the Gulf coast.
Chertoff says he didn't know then that levees in New Orleans had been breached.
A congressional inquiry being released today concludes that thousands of hurricane victims could have been spared though better planning and faster action.