Inter-Agency Collaboration to Facilitate Cross-Departmental Article

  • Length: 11 pages
  • Sources: 20
  • Subject: Business - Management
  • Type: Article
  • Paper: #30329379

Excerpt from Article :

S. history such as Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake. Post-9/11 infrastructure protection investments have focused on increasing the security of infrastructure, not in increasing its resilience." (p. 258)

Certainly, these breakdowns are an indication that many of the interagency strategies brought to bear in the discussion on public administration had not been executed effectively, especially those intended to coalesce under the roof of the Department of Homeland Security. A quick review of the disaster management failures of Katrina are appropriate here. Accordingly, for five days after the landfall and passage of Hurricane Katrina, hordes of people stranded in New Orleans continued to wait for some indication that the federal government would soon be provided relief. Stranded and contained in horrific conditions in the city's football arena, the Superdome, which had been converted to a makeshift evacuation shelter with woefully insufficient supplies and accommodations for the tens of thousands who sought refuge there, those without the means to leave town paid the consequences of the city's incapacity to the facilitate an evacuation on the scale necessitated. Thousands of others, who had attempted either by choice or the absence of any other reasonable option to ride the storm out in their homes, were forced onto their roofs by two stories of flooding. Many of these citizens remained here for days without food, water or contact, waiting for helicopter rescue teams.

In the midst of this chaos, the absence of FEMA representatives, a military emergency management team, adequate supplies, food or water grew more urgent and more inexplicable as hours turned into days. While television cameras rolled, a predominantly African-American population waited on highway embankments, in front of the New Orleans Convention Center, in hospitals, in their homes and in the airport terminal without medication, sustenance or relief from unsanitary conditions and blistering temperatures. With so many infants, elderly and infirm relegated to these circumstances for such an extended duration, "instances of storm survivors dying before they could be rescued and evacuated have added to criticism of the problems in the recovery operation." (SR 2005, p.1)

President Bush did not offer any public indication that federal leadership was orienting a plan or enacting one which would segue into a recovery effort. In a five day lapse that seemed to worsen each day, with simultaneous crises of looting, violence, crime, an absence of central law enforcement and with no on-site leadership or plan of action, the people of New Orleans were failed by overlapping neglect of multiple government agencies, and more particularly by the National Response Plan deployed since the 9/11 attacks.

Here, in the days to follow Hurricane Katrina, many different levels of government would point fingers at one another for the dramatic shortfall on responsibility. However, the distinctly high levels of statewide poverty in impacted contexts such as Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and Alabama suggests that these have lacked the necessary resources to manage such disasters without sufficient federal involvement. Indeed, the text by McCarthy (2009) identifies this as one of the central functions of the federal government where disaster management is concerned, arguing that "states can be victims of an event that can greatly diminish their ability to assist in housing victims of major disasters or emergencies. But beyond the impact of a disaster in a state is the fact that, while all states are equal in rights, they are not necessarily equal in their capacity to respond. Nor do all states make the equivalent commitment to disaster recovery work, including sheltering and housing." (McCarthy, p. 3)

In the Wake of Katrina

As the realities of Hurricane Katrina's long-term damage became apparent, it was clear that states were lacking in the resources to address housing issues for all impacted citizens and that the federal government would be ill-prepared even after its botched relief efforts to provide meaningful assistance in these areas. A consideration of some of the correspondences relating to interagency agreement relating to housing matters shows the disconnect between various government agencies all responding to the same problem. For instance, we consider the departure between two different correspondences proceeding from the umbrella United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as it navigates its new role. In one correspondence, the HUD strongly recommends servicing actions for homeowners whose properties were directly affected by the disaster. This includes such actions as special forbearance, mortgage modification, refinancing, and waiver of late charges." (Montgomery, p. 3)

This denotes HUD's initial policy as a way of bringing disaster relief through a federal moratorium on certain financial actions against effected homeowners. However, this relief seems to be openly contrasted by a correspondence where it is reported that "the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) no longer provides the Mortgage Assistance Payments referred to in Mortgagee Letters 2004-37, 2004-36, and 2004-32. FHA recently became aware that this program was terminated." (Weicher, p. 1) the divergent interests of these policies suggests that HUD has not reconciled effectively its role as an umbrella agency to the benefit of those impacted by poor state or local-level disaster management capabilities. The divergence shown above between the selected correspondences is indicative of the federal balking at responsibility for the long-term management of events such as Hurricane Katrina.

Certainly, one is inclined to speculate with some doubt as to the effectiveness of refinements to this NRP following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. This is because indications that the federal government had failed to provide the necessary quantity of resources to disaster relief management are fully absent from the Public Inquiry. There are additional subject omissions from the inquiry which concern public understanding of the events as the occurred. To this extent, budgetary failures are seen as having led to the devastation of New Orleans, from a long-term downward momentum of funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects intended to strengthen levies and reinforce dams in New Orleans to a sustained trend of neglect for infrastructural needs in a city geographically located almost fully beneath sea-level. (Roberts 2005, p. 1)

And this points further to a set of absolutely crucial omissions from consideration in the public inquiry that, as a result, will leave gaping holes in the overall portrait of the events and implications surrounding the disaster in question. In particular, it is clear that FEMA was an agency remarkably spared the scrutiny which it justly deserved. Given that its appointed head, Michael Brown would be forced to resign within two weeks of the disaster, that FEMA would simply be considered euphemistically symptomatic of the need for stronger communicational coordination between government agencies full ignores the extensive indications that FEMA exhibited a lack of experience and organizational wherewithal suggesting the current incapacity of the umbrella Department of Homeland Security. (AP 2006, 1) This is a clear demonstration that interagency collaboration cannot simply be imposed through bureaucratic restructuring. Genuine communication must occur at multiple levels in order to facilitate preparedness on the federal, state and local level for such massive disaster recovery tasks.

According to this point, Kapucu (2006) speaks to one of the core challenges in this area of civic management, describing a scenario in which the performance of federal emergency management duties is highly dependent on the appropriate level of communication and interaction with core local agencies and stakeholders in achieving preparedness. Here, Kapucu remarks that recent major disasters have highlighted the importance of this functionality, indicating that "an important lesson from the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster is that although the response activities undertaken by official emergency agencies were crucial, those activities constituted only part of the picture. Equally significant was the manner in which these agencies interacted with and obtained support from nonemergency organizations." (Kapucu, p. 207)

In the article's case study on the response actions relating to the WTC attacks, Kapucu identifies effective communication tactics as a primary determinant in the effectiveness of disaster response and emergency management efforts. Still, the dialogue that would follow in the broad spectrum of literature sources on the subject would attempt to evaluate and advise the government in its efforts to reorganize and adapt to changing demands. In doing so, much literature would point, as does that by Harrald, to the degree to which the federal government has failed to serve as a leader in promoting preparation and long-term resource stability in disaster management. Here, Harrald remarks that "extreme events that require a coordinated federal response to avoid catastrophic failures resulting from the overwhelming of state and local resources. As stated by Roberts (2005, 4), this is one of the primary reasons that a government exists." (Harrald, 258)


The federal government has recognized this failure to the extent that in 2008, the National Response Plan (NRP) would be replaced with the National Response Framework (NRF). With it would come renewed efforts at bringing coordination and communication about between umbrella federal agencies and state, local or communities stakeholders. The Framework would be focused on…

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