The committee, with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, as chairwoman, convened hearings Wednesday.
Collins said: "We will explore the coordination among local, state and federal emergency management officials before and after the hurricane's landfall. And we will critically examine the legal structures and authorities that define who is in charge of assets that must be brought to bear in such a catastrophic event."
The governmental response on all levels has been under attack since the category 4 hurricane made landfall Aug. 29 on the U.S. Gulf Coast, causing damage with winds and breaching levees that caused floods in the New Orleans area. Several hundred people are known to have died.
National Urban League President and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial told the committee in prepared remarks the federal government must commit to a gulf-wide rebuilding effort. Morial said there must be a commitment to racial and economic diversity in rebuilding New Orleans and a national commission should be established to look into warning systems and relief efforts.