Disasters are political occurrences; they can either destroy or glorify politicians. The spectacular temperament of disasters calls for the involvement of these chief executives and they test their leadership merits. How politicians control these rare occurrences can frame how their whole term in office receive judgments. During his last White House Press Conference, President George W. Bush was asked about the mistake he made during his reign, and among his regrets was the federal response to Hurricane Katrina (Reeves, 2011). Even though he never campaigned on his capacities to control natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina formed part of his legacy. To an impacted voter, the policy of disaster is potential even more significant than choices regarding the economy, education or war. As a result, disaster management holds a great impact on politicians because people judge them from the manner in which they respond and mitigate disasters. This paper therefore evaluates the current state of emergency management field about political influence besides assessing how disaster policy might be more proactive. The paper also assesses Hurricane Katrina, which took place in 2005 in the U.S. And underlines the greatest obstacles to a more proactive evolution of emergency management.
Disasters are evident in the contemporary world and they form part of the reality of living. Even with considerable efforts to control nature, people constantly face natural hazards. Over the last decade, the economic and social disaster costs in the United States and elsewhere in the world have developed greatly. According to Haddow, Bullock & Coppola (2010), the costs of disasters in the U.S. were approximately 355 billion dollars between 2000 and 2008. Economic losses and death caused by natural disasters increased considerably in 2008 when 235,816 persons died from natural disasters and 211 million people affected by these disasters. However, all disasters hold a political influence because these disasters affect people and involve public policy. The manner in which a country mitigates, respond, prepare and recover from calamities depends on the creation, maintenance and implementation of disaster management policy.
Politics is the procedure through which public policy is established and implemented. Failure in implementation of public policy on disaster management instigates political debates, which consequently form the basis of political campaigns. Moreover, disasters calls for public interest and politician have to react accordingly to public scrutiny and interests. The 9/11 and Oklahoma events were political and required political decisions to respond to these events. However, the 9/11 terrorist attack instigated dramatic changes in United States emergency management (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2010). These attacks and the following anthrax scare in October 2001 acted as a driving force towards reexamination of the country's emergency system that entails priorities, practices and funding. While the disasters linked to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina partially changed the course of emergency management, the shifts made after the 9/11 terrorist attack are ongoing.
The Current State of Emergency Management Field
Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Nunn-Lugar legislation offered the principal power and direction for domestic federal preparedness actions for terrorism. Numerous agencies, such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), DOJ ( Department of Justice, HHS ( Department of Health and Human Resources), DOD ( Department of Defense and the National Guard were all engaged, and were fighting for leadership of the issue of terrorism (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2010). There were several trials at coordination, but agencies greatly pursued their set agendas. The greatest disparity among the involved agencies was the available funding level where DOJ and DOD took control of most funds. Local and state governments were in confusion and they felt unprepared. They complained about the requirement to acknowledge their needs and vulnerability when disasters occur. The events following the 9/11 attack confirmed the concerns of the local and state government and illustrated the call for shifts in the federal perspective to terrorism (Garrett, Thomas & Russell, 2003). The shifts fall under five categories, which include:
First responder activities and protocols
Preparing for terrorist actions
Financing war on terrorism
Creation of Department of Homeland Security
The change in direction of the country system of emergency management on war against terrorism
Since the dreadful assail of 9/11, the United States endeavors to be successful over cultural melancholy via institutional rectification (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2010). The institutional rectification instigates substantial reorganization of the federal government by reexamining the direction of the country's intelligence population. This prompted a transformed necessitate for domestic protection leading to the establishment of Department of Homeland Security. In the absence of disaster incidences, the field of emergency management falls low on scores of political agendas. Governments function on restrained budgets, making it difficult to for underprivileged nations' leaders to select mitigation for disasters that may never take place in the course of their tenure over projects capable of generation, instant recognition and gratification. The United Nations identified augmented political devotion to emergency management (Reeves, 2011). Public officials should be convinced of the increased benefits of detailed emergency management, including how much more cost-effective benefits mitigation and preparation efforts are in comparative with disaster response and recovery.
Disasters in the real world do not occur in a vacuum. Scores of disaster management planning efforts approach each hazard as if it will take place in the absence of all other hazards. Unfortunately, it is common for two or more disasters to occur concurrently or in succession leading to compound emergency. Following the 9/11 events, the Department of Homeland Security was established and it made FEMA to lose its status an independent agency (Garrett, Thomas & Russell, 2003). In most of states, governors introduced new homeland security organizations and in few cases, the state emergency management operation was subsumed into these organizations. Most emergency management organizations failed to receive an actual rise in funds and they lost political influence and authority (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2010). The principal mission of homeland security is to block prospective terrorism acts. However, these aspects call for inclusion and prominence of law enforcement and intelligence functions.
Because of the national preoccupation with the incidences of 9/11 terrorist attacks, all localities and states were compelled to create preparedness and plans for terrorism as their greatest priority. The massive failures of FEMA in the course of response and recovery from Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disasters like Hurricane Ike and Rita made politicians and the public to focus on the issue of natural hazards (Garrett, Thomas & Russell, 2003). They put into task the responsibility of the federal government in assisting people in the aftermath of natural disasters. The absence of proficient federal response and the call to enhance preparedness for catastrophic disasters became a heated debate in Bush administration. While the recovery from Hurricane Katrina continued to fade away, FEMA concentrated its endeavors on planning for the next catastrophic disasters. Federal preparedness planning needs and conformity with federal processes were imposed on local and state governments as a requirement for constant receipt of federal funding.
The September 2001 terrorist attack and the Hurricane Katrina are two examples that highlight the political influence in the state of emergency management field in the United States. From the two major disasters in the history of America, it is evident that disasters and their subsequent results hold a great potential to influence the political atmosphere of state, nation or a community. Such disasters alter the perceptions of people regarding the concern and ability of political players (Gasper & Reeves, 2011). Disasters cause politicians to become more responsive to criticism of relief and response efforts. People can link instances where political landscapes and futures are altered through a calamity and the consequent leadership. The 9/11 attacks is the most striking event that made a President in the United States elected through the barest of voter mass and lost the accepted vote due weak leadership skills. However, President George W. Bush who handled the impacts of the 9/11 attacks is viewed as masterful and he enjoyed the most accepted presidencies in the contemporary world (Gasper & Reeves, 2011). This shows that there is a close relationship between politics and disasters in the United States. Although FEMA lost its political influence, key functions and resources during the Bush Administration, politics influenced creation of other urgencies such Home Land security and DHS. Moreover, a disaster is declared by the president notwithstanding that declaring a calamity should be above politics and precise.
Recent U.S. Disaster: Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina is one of the most critical natural disasters that hit the United States after the deadly 9/11 attack (Palser, 2007). The Hurricane Katrina confirmed what NRP would view as a deep-seated catastrophe. Hurricane Katrina inflicted destruction across large area leading to involvement of the federal government in the intercession procedures. Nevertheless, this disaster never received the most needed response. In meeting the failures of the assigned response teams, the government projected a federal-heavy top-down outlook to cataclysm (Palser, 2007). In this regard, President Bush recommended that DOD be involved in disaster management and intercession above all in cases of critical desolation…