The Department of Defense during Hurricane Katrina

Collaboration amid Crisis:
The Department of Defense during Hurricane Katrina
On Tuesday, August 23 2005, the National Hurricane Center observed a
tropical depression about 200 miles southeast of the Bahamas. A week later
Hurricane Katrina had become the greatest natural disaster in living memory in the
US, affecting 92,000 square miles, leaving over 1,800 dead, and destroying much of
a major city.
Hurricane Katrina left a series of images. A deluged city. Victims signaling
desperately for help. The dead and the displaced. Among those images were
pictures of governmental failure, and some limited successes. Michael Brown, the
beleaguered Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
This case was an honorable mention winner in our 2008 Collaborative Public Management,
Collaborative Governance, and Collaborative Problem Solving teaching case and simulation
competition. It was by a committee of academics and practitioners. It was
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This case is intended for classroom discussion and is not intended to suggest either effective or
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1 This case study was prepared by Donald P. Moynihan of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of
Madison-Wisconsin. It draws from a variety of sources, most particularly A Failure of Initiative, A Report of the
Senate Committee on Homeland and Security and Governmental Affairs. Full bibliographic details are contained in
the teachers note.
was commended by President Bush for a heckuva job, just days before he was
called back to Washington and asked to resign. Lt. General Russel Honor, who
led the military response to Katrina, offered a contrasting image of authority and
urgency. The Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, described him as the John
Wayne dude. Honors arrival in New Orleans saw a gradual return to order.
Most residents still stranded in the city echoed the sentiments of the young girl
who shouted at a troop convoy entering the city: Thank you Mr. Army!
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin, FEMA Director Michael Brown, President George W. Bush, and
Governor of Louisiana Kathleen Blanco. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
These images frame a simple narrative of what happened because of
Hurricane Katrina. FEMA, and its parent organization, the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS), failed. Their failure was partially remedied by the
efforts of the military. There is some truth to this narrative, but it is also deceptive
because it frames the response to Katrina in terms of the capacities of individual
organizations. It leads us to think that solving wicked problems is a matter of
finding the right organization.2
The botched response to Katrina was not a failure of individual
organizations, but a failure of collaboration. Collaboration is a necessary quality
of crisis response simply because there is no single organization that can respond
to a large-scale crisis. A network of responders is required. FEMA itself is a
relatively small agency and lacks the capacity to directly respond to even a
medium-sized disaster. Its primary role in a disaster is to foster the coordination of
state, local, and other federal responders, as well as non-profit and private actors.
FEMA depends upon the willingness of other organizations to engage in the crisis
For example, many felt that the lesson was that the DOD needed to take over crisis response. Congress modified
the Insurrection Act to reduce the legal constraints on DOD intervention in natural disasters or other crises in 2006.
However, all 50 Governors objected to this new federal authority and Congress removed the provisions in 2007.
response network, which in turn is driven by the mandated responsibilities these
organizations have, the strategic decisions their leaders take, and their cultural
This case examines the collaboration between FEMA and the most
important response organization during Katrina: the Department of Defense
(DOD). At various times the DOD appeared beset by inertia, while at other times
it bypassed rules to provide resources even before FEMA asked for them. The
complex nature of the relationship between these two organizations underlines that
even when different actors share the same goal and coordination is essential,
working together is not always easy. To understand the context of this
relationship, we must first revisit some basic facts about Katrina, and learn about
the federal policies that are intended to foster collaboration amid crisis.
Background: Hurricane Katrina
By Friday, August 26 at 11 a.m., the National Weather Service warned that
Hurricane Katrina was heading toward New Orleans. The Governor of Louisiana,
Kathleen Blanco, was worried enough to declare a state of emergency. Later, the
National Weather Service revised its prediction. By 4 p.m. the storm was predicted
to hit the Mississippi Coast. By 4 a.m. on Saturday New Orleans was again
expected to be hit. On Saturday voluntary evacuations began in Louisiana,
President Bush declared a state of emergency and FEMA and state emergency
responders began 24-hour operations. By 7 p.m. on Saturday, the National
Weather Service warned that levees could be topped in New Orleans, causing
catastrophic flooding.
The Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, ordered a mandatory evacuation by
9.30 a.m. on Sunday, and the Superdome was opened as a refuge of last resort.
Katrina made landfall by 6:10 a.m. on Monday, and later that morning levees
began to be overtopped and breached, leading to catastrophic flooding, although
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and White House would not learn of
this until early Tuesday morning. Search and rescue operations began by Monday
afternoon, but communications also began to fail around this time. DHS Secretary
Michael Chertoff declared an Incident of National Significance on Tuesday
evening. On Thursday, buses finally arrived to begin evacuations from the
Superdome, although evacuations from both the Superdome and another shelter,
the Morial Convention Center, were not completed until Saturday, and some
remained stranded on highways until Monday.
Figure 1: The Incident Command System
Operations Logistics Planning
A catastrophe as large as Katrina is different from other disasters. It requires
more of everything, especially resources and responders. At the same time, the
storm reduced response capacity, especially state and local resources. Even as
responders worked with degraded capacities, Katrina also created an
unprecedented demand for actions and services, such as food, water, evacuation,
search and rescue, and shelters. For example, in the days after Katrina, 563
American Red Cross or state emergency shelters in Louisiana housed 146,292
people who lacked adequate food, water, medical services, and toilet facilities.
Coordinating Crisis Response
The US government has struggled with how to deal with the challenge of
fostering inter-organizational collaboration amid crisis. The aftermath of 9/11 saw
the newly created DHS mandate a single model for crisis response coordination.
This model was the Incident Command System (ICS). The ICS was an innovation
of California forest fire responders in the early 1970s, who sought to find a
common language, management concepts, and communications to facilitate
coordination. The key innovation of the ICS was to temporarily centralize
authority to direct multiple organizations. The designated incident commander
directs and coordinates the tactical efforts of the many organizations using standard
crisis response functions of operations, logistics, planning, and finance and
administration (see figure 1 and appendix 1 for additional detail).
In the years that followed the ICSs creation, practitioners perceived it to be
successful in reducing coordination problems and improving fire response
effectiveness. As its reputation grew, crisis responders outside of California began
to use the ICS to fight forest fires and for other tasks such as hazardous material
cleanups, earthquakes, and floods.
In 2004, the DHS established a new National Response Plan (NRP) that
included a requirement for all federal responders to use the ICS approach, as well
as any state and local responders receiving DHS grants. Katrina was the first
major disaster that took place after the introduction of the new crisis management
policies, and represented their first critical test. But the ICS failed to provide unity
of command and clear direction to responders during Katrina. No single individual
took charge in the early stages of the disaster. There were three major operational
commands in the field during Katrina featuring federal officials:
The Joint Field Office and Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO): The NRP
makes the FCO (William Lokey, from FEMA) the federal response
commander. The FCO forms a unified command with the state coordinating
officer, who is responsible for coordinating state and local needs and actions
with federal actions. According to the classic ICS model the Joint Field Office
is the commanding unit. But in the case of Katrina, two other commands
The Principal Federal Official (PFO): The NRP created the role of the PFO to
act as the eyes and ears of the DHS on the ground, but not to make operational
decisions. Secretary Chertoff appointed Michael Brown as the PFO on
Tuesday, the day after landfall. But Brown lacked the required training for the
role, and thought the role was an unnecessary distraction from his duties.
Brown did such a poor job of communicating with Chertoff that the DHS
Secretary eventually told him to stop moving and to stay put in Baton Rouge.
There was confusion in the minds of DHS officials as to the role of the PFO.
Some seemed to think that it was effectively the role of field commander,
trumping the FCO. In a pre-Katrina response exercise this confusion had been
apparent, but was unresolved. The PFO that succeeded Brown, Admiral Thad
Allen, did not clear this confusion, but instead established a separate command
that made operational decisions without working through the Joint Field Office.
In practical terms, this tension was finally resolved when Allen also took on the
role of FCO.
Joint Task Force Katrina: This command directed DOD active duty forces.
General Honor, who led the Joint Task Force, took state and local government
requests and pursued actions without coordinating with the Joint Field Office.
According to the NRP, state and local officials should have worked through the
Joint Field Office. But the multiplicity of commands among federal responders
made clear lines of intergovernmental coordination more difficult to establish.
There were other factors that limited the potential for collaboration between
federal officials and state and local officials. Much of state and local emergency
infrastructure was destroyed, and first responders were themselves victims of the
flood. Many local responders lost response assets, evacuated or were isolated by
the flooding. In New Orleans, for example, city buses were flooded, even though
they were staged in areas that had not seen flooding during previous storms. In
any case, most potential drivers had already evacuated. Pre-designated Emergency
Operation Centers were rendered unusable due to flooding or other damage,
eliminating a base for command operations and resulting in poor coordination and
wasted time as responders looked for new locations. Federal responders were often
located too far away to be effective, and transportation was mostly unusable.
Communications was also badly impacted, limiting the capacity to establish
situational awareness, share information and coordinate action. Over three million
telephone land-lines were lost in the affected states, including many 911 call
centers. Wireless phones were also affected, with approximately 2,000 cell sites
out of service, and few places to charge the phones because of widespread power
But the potential for intergovernmental collaboration was also undermined prior
to Hurricane Katrina via a series of post-9/11 policy changes. FEMA was moved
into the newly-formed DHS in 2002, reducing its ability to maintain its traditional
role as lynchpin of intergovernmental emergency relationships. The agency lost
resources that allowed it to convene intergovernmental planning efforts that were
central in building such relationships. It also lost political influence and the
authority to provide grants for state and local preparedness efforts, giving state and
local governments less reason to pay attention to FEMA. As FEMA fell into
decline, so did agency morale. Senior managers left, taking with them decades of
relationships with state and local counterparts.
The DOD View of Crisis Response
For federal agencies, the NRP had identified specific disaster responsibilities
ahead of time in order to reduce confusion when a crisis occurred. The DHS
hoped that this would establish a basis for crisis collaboration. FEMA would
identify a need and communicate it to the appropriate federal agencies, who would
then supply the requested resources. Reflecting its outsized importance, the DOD
had responsibilities in almost all of the emergency support functions identified by
the NRP (see appendix 2).
But this process is complicated by the DODs understanding of its role in
crisis response. DOD has its own directives that reflect a reluctance to become
engaged in crisis response, and particular concerns about interagency
collaboration.3 This policy decrees that the DOD will become involved only
when other local, state or Federal resources are unavailable and only if Defense
support does not interfere with DODs primary mission or ability to respond to
operational contingencies. The official stance of the DOD is that it cannot be part
of any incident command not under the control of DOD officials, arguing that,
alone among federal agencies, it cannot be commanded by any civilian other than
the President and the Secretary of the DOD.
Within these constraints, the DOD offers two forms of crisis response
capacity. First, when necessary, the DOD is willing to provide help to civilian
authorities, but views mission assignments from these agencies as requests for
assistance rather than orders from a command. The DOD facilitates this
coordination by placing a Defense Coordinating Officer to work with the Federal
Coordinating Officer at the Joint Field Office of the incident. The Defense
Coordinating Office is the on-site command of DOD resources unless a separate
command is established. Second, if serious enough, the military may decide to
establish a separate command to direct its own forces. In Katrina, this took the
form of Joint Task Force Katrina, led by General Russel L. Honor.
A further constraint on DOD collaboration during crisis is a set of self-imposed
rules. The process for reviewing requests for assistance is established by 1997
DOD Directive 3025.15. Requests are supposed to go from the Federal
Coordinating Officer to the Defense Coordinating Officer, who then passes them
through the Northern Command (NORTHCOM the part of the DOD whose
theater of operations includes the United States) to the Office of the Secretary of
Defense Executive Secretariat, and then to the Joint Director of Military Support
(JDOMS). The validity and legality of the request is reviewed at each stage, and
the request is expected to estimate the length of time support will be needed.
JDOMS is required to consider the impact on the DODs budget, whether it is in
DODsinterest to participate, the legality of action, possible harm to civilians, and
3 Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (DCSINT). 2005. DSCINT
Handbook No. 1.04: Defense Support of Civilian Authorities.
effect on readiness for overseas missions. The recommendation of JDOMS is
normally passed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and requires Presidential approval, but
in times of disaster or if local authorities need immediate help, the DOD can move
more quickly.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honor (left), commander of Joint Task Force Katrina; U.S. Army Maj.
Gen. Bill Caldwell, 82nd Airborne Division Commander; and Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld discuss Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as they walk through the airport in New Orleans,
La., on Sept. 4, 2005. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald
The DODs caution about its role in crisis response reflects an underlying
concern about being dragged into non-military missions and becoming subservient
to other organizations. This concern is not new. In his classic analysis of civilmilitary relations, Samuel Huntington argued that the DOD sought and needed a
measure of autonomy. In return, the military would maintain an ethic of
professionalism that emphasized obedience to a civilian command.
A suspicion of interagency cooperation is reflected in DOD history. Within
the DOD itself, distinct service cultures and interbranch rivalries have restricted
coordination. The suspicion of working with others has become more problematic
as the DOD has been asked to undertake a variety of new tasks that necessitate
coordination with outside actors, such as fighting terrorism, diplomacy, nation
building, the war on drugs, peacekeeping, and crisis response. Many in the military
regard such activities as mission creep because they are not directly
related to winning wars. In fact, such responsibilities have their own name:
Military Operations Other than War (MOOTW).
One former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff mocked the Pentagons
angst about mission creep by frequently stating that Real men dont do
MOOTW. The military strategist Michael Barnett notes that advocates for
MOOTW have had to face a hostile DOD culture: In the macho world of the
military, it wasnt difficult to see who would lose this doctrinal fight: obviously the
guy whos only talking about things other than war. Who, after all, joins the
military to do things other than war? I mean, isnt that called the Peace Corps?
The DOD during Katrina
Many responders, including some DOD officials, suggested that the DOD
response to Katrina was sluggish. Other DOD officials defended their response,
noting that they had set aside bureaucratic rules. Both characterizations are
accurate to the extent that they reflect two distinct stages of the DODs response.
In the first period, before and immediately after landfall, the DOD took an
essentially reactive posture, where it waited for requests from civilian authorities.
In the second period, beginning on Tuesday, the day after landfall, the DOD took a
much more proactive stance, characterized by a can-do military culture that led
the DOD to set aside its own rules and procedures in the name of greater
Period One: Why Isnt the Red Tape Being Cut?
Both FEMA officials and Louisiana state officials described the initial DOD
response as slow and overly bureaucratic. Scott Wells, a FEMA Federal
Coordinating Officer with 30 years of military experience, described the JDOMS
process as more than awkward. It’s more than cumbersome. It just takes a long
time to execute.
FEMA staff were frustrated by cases where the DOD could have been more
responsive in processing requests. It took 24 hours for the DOD to process orders
for helicopters to survey the damage. FEMA requested eight swiftwater rescue
teams, squads trained and equipped to work in a flooded city, and equipment from
Travis and March Air Force bases in California. While FEMA liaisons worked all
night drawing up the request, they were told in the morning that Secretary
Rumsfeld was unavailable to approve the request (Rumsfeld was in San Diego, his
schedule including a San Diego Padres baseball game). At one point, when told
Pentagon rules did not allow for the quick procurement of a boat to house the
homeless, FEMA Director Michael Brown asked: Why isn’t red tape being cut?
State government officials encountered similar red tape. Andy Kopplin,
Chief of Staff to Louisiana Governor Blanco, requested that the Pentagon allow the
use of four helicopters that were at the Fort Polk Air Force Base in Louisiana. On
Tuesday morning, Kopplin called the base and was told the Governor needed to
make a request to the DOD to release the helicopters. After spending hours on the
phone to an official at the Pentagon, permission was given. But then the
helicopters were not released until the next day. Because pilots had spent the day
idling on the tarmac awaiting orders, they had exceeded their allowed flight time
for the day and were not allowed to fly.
The DOD argued that most delays in processing requests for aid were
because of vague FEMA requests. From the perspective of FEMA officials
working under difficult conditions, the DOD demanded an excessive level of
detail, creating an information bar unlikely to be satisfied in the chaos of Katrina.
Scott Wells suggested that the DOD wanted to know 80 to 90 percent of the
information before they will commit an asset. Once the DOD reviewed a request,
it often returned it to FEMA seeking additional clarification.
Some DOD officials on the front lines shared the frustration of other crisis
responders. Captain Michael McDaniel, the lead Navy liaison to FEMA, said:
JDOMS is notorious or has been notorious, Well, you can’t ask for it that way.
You need to do it like this. Well, tell me how I need to ask for it, you know? I just
need some helicopter support down there. Colonel Don Harrington, the lead
DOD and National Guard liaison to FEMA agreed that yes, there were some
delays over there for 9,153 different reasons, and that created some angstI think
it’s just a cultural thing, all the way upJust a cultural reluctance that they want to
make sure that mission analysis is done and all the options are explored before you
come to DOD.
General Honor had also urged a more proactive approach. On Sunday
evening he contacted NORTHCOM, requesting a consideration of what types of
support could be provided, and sought a response by 2 a.m. the next morning.
However, without direction to deploy resources from JDOMS, NORTHCOM was
reluctant to explore options, delaying the ability of the DOD to become an active
participant in the response. Major General Richard Rowe, the Operations Director
at NORTHCOM, noted that Joint Forces Command and the Joint Staff did not do
anything, and did not want to see any requests initiated from within the military
until FEMA had issued requests. This approach hampered Rowes ability to detail
the types of support the DOD could immediately provide. In an email to Honor
12 hours after landfall Rowe explained the delay in providing this information was
due to being somewhat hamstrung by JDOMS desire to wait for [Requests for
By waiting for specific requests and carefully vetting those requests through
JDOMS, the DOD delayed its own capacity to respond. That DOD officials
blamed FEMA for failing to prepare adequate requests for assistance indicates that
the DOD began by treating Katrina as a disaster like any other. The DOD initially
employed a pull orientation assuming that crisis response would occur from
the bottom up rather than a push approach. A push approach would have
seen the DOD move rapidly to deploy resources without formal requests, and to
establish a separate command. The DOD would soon apply a push approach, as
senior officials realized the extent of the catastrophe. The decision to move to this
approach was made at a meeting of DOD leadership on Tuesday morning.
Period Two: The Blank Check
Like other federal officials not in Louisiana, DOD leadership assumed that
New Orleans had dodged a bullet as late as Monday night. On Tuesday morning
Assistant Secretary Paul McHale, Deputy Secretary Gordon England (who was
acting Secretary in Rumsfelds absence), and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, General Richard Myers, met. They were concerned that media reports were
underreporting damage, and that FEMA was not making requests in a timely
fashion. Deputy Secretary England told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and representatives
of the military services that they should lean forward and that NORTHCOM was
to be provided with any asset it needed. On Tuesday afternoon, General Myers
repeated these commitments to his service chiefs, adding that they could proceed on
the authority of vocal command, from himself, or from Deputy Secretary England
to provide the necessary resources needed to Admiral Timothy Keating, commander
of NORTHCOM. Keating was told by England that he had a blank check to
respond to Katrina. A later order provided further autonomy to DOD responders,
expanding Myers vocal order to allow commanders to react anywhere they saw a
These leaders at the DOD anticipated that the full attention of the White
House was now turned to Katrina, and as a result, their role would be significantly
broadened. Admiral Ed Giambastiani, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
emailed Admiral Keating at 4.59 p.m. on Tuesday saying: Whatever you can
think of and get it moving yesterday, carriers, helos, trucks, amphibs, LCACs
[Landing Craft Air Cushion], C-17s, C-130s, hospital ships, medical teams –
whatever. Overkill is better than undershoot. POTUS [President Bush] is coming
back to D.C. tonight just for this.
The move to a push approach is reflected in the highly unusual decision to
rely on vocal command. In almost all cases, deployments for resources follow
written orders which are electronically tracked. Assistant Secretary McHale
recalled: The message from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, consistent with the
counsel provided by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was to act with a sense of
urgency and to minimize paperwork and bureaucracy to the greatest extent
possible.Admiral Keating understood the direction as, We’re moving anything we
think FEMA will need. No obstacles from DOD orJoint. The shift to vocal
command sought to prevent normal paperwork requirements from delaying the
response. The DOD would take action consistent with the needs of the situation,
and catch up with the paperwork later.
The switch to a proactive response was felt immediately on the ground.
Captain McDaniel noted The pendulum swung from one extreme to the other
through this. I mean, it went from having to pry Secretary Rumsfeld’s fingers off of
a helicopter packageand this 100-pound gorilla just goes, Okay, we’ve got it.
Boom, and then the floodgates open. This new responsiveness led FEMA and
DHS staff to praise the DOD. DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson described it
as one of the best examples of cutting through bureaucratic red tape and getting
on with the job.
The DOD no longer allocated resources by carefully vetting FEMA requests.
If requests were not specific enough, DOD officials were now likely to fill in the
details and move ahead. In addition, the DOD sought to anticipate FEMA requests
by moving forward with what resources it thought appropriate. When FEMA
requested resources, the DOD was ready to provide them. If the DOD felt that
resources could be usefully deployed, but FEMA had not already requested those
resources, the DOD generally put them in operation anyway, and then drafted its
own requests for assistance, which it passed on to FEMA to send back to the DOD
through official channels. For example, US Transportation Command began
airlifts from New Orleans airport at 8 a.m. on Thursday, but it was not until
Thursday evening that the DOD received a mission assignment to airlift evacuees,
and this assignment was not processed until Friday. The majority of military
resources deployed, worth about $805 million, were already in the process of
execution by the time they were officially approved by the Secretary of Defense on
September 5.
At the same time, the appointment of Honor to lead Joint Task Force Katrina
provided another means by which the normal procedural constraints could be
bypassed. Honor started by finding a way to move his troops near the center of the
action without waiting for orders. My thought was get there, because the
first rule of war is you’ve got to get there. In the absence of explicit orders to
mobilize, one formal way that Honor could move his troops was through a
training exercise. He invented Exercise Katrina in order to move his troops to
Camp Shelby in Mississippi before landfall. Waiting for an official request for
assistance or deployment orders was not Honors style: “That is a response,
sometimes, by folks to say, Let’s wait until they ask for something. But in this
case, we’ve got a case where we need to save life and limb. We can’t wait for a
[Request for Assistance] or shouldn’t be waiting for one. If there’s capability, we
need to start moving.
JDOMS directives allow local military commanders to make use of
resources without prior permission to save lives, prevent human suffering, or
mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions. Honor, in
many instances, replaced the JDOMS process taking requests for state and local
officials, evaluating them, and deploying resources. For example, Louisiana
officials did not make a formal request for active duty forces to be deployed but
simply asked Honor. Active duty personnel searched for survivors, assisted
rescues, and maintained law and order.
The DOD was now clearly engaged in the response. This was good news for
FEMA; having witnessed DODs concerns about performing non-military
missions and FEMA was now seeing the can-do aspect of DOD culture. But it
did not mean that FEMA and the DOD now had a smooth collaborative
relationship. By committing to an all-out effort, the DOD largely edged FEMA
aside, telling FEMA what resources it would provide before FEMA could
formulate requests. In his testimony to the Senate, Scott Wells of FEMA likened
the aid of the DOD to that of an 800-pound gorilla: You’re supposed to take care
of that gorilla and be responsible for that gorilla, but that 800-pound gorilla is
going to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it and how he wants to do it.
So you lose some of that control in your organization with the Department of
Defense structure.
The establishment of Joint Task Force Katrina reflected DOD autonomy. The
Task Force essentially represented a separate field command in addition to the
civilian Joint Field Office, and the Principal Federal Official. The Task Force did
little to coordinate the requests it received from state and local officials with other
commands. This further weakened the prospect for unified command in response.
For example, FEMA officials had devised a plan for evacuating the Superdome, and
planned to do so on Wednesday morning. But General Honor told National Guard
at the Superdome to cancel these plans. At the request of Governor Blanco, Honor
implemented a separate evacuation plan without informing FEMA. Another
example is body recovery and mortuary services, where the DOD became impatient
when the Department of Health and Human Services, the official lead agency for
this responsibility, was slow in responding. Eventually, the DOD took the lead in
identifying and storing the dead bodies. In these examples, the DOD simply moved
ahead and undertook tasks when it felt that coordinating with other agencies was
delaying the process.
The aggressive response of the DOD in this period made it easy to forget its
initial inertia. It was widely praised in the aftermath of Katrina. A special Senate
committee highlighted the extraordinary efforts of the DOD in helping to restore
some sense of order, but also noted a cultural reluctance to commit Department
assets to civil support missions unless absolutely necessary.
4 This combination of
praise and criticism reflected the mixed results of the FEMA-DOD collaboration,
and raised questions. Is it possible to structure collaboration in crisis situations?
What barriers limit such collaboration, and how can they be overcome? What
motivates coordination between agencies? What role do organizational rules,
culture, and leadership have in shaping collaboration? Finding answers to these
questions poses an ongoing challenge for policymakers looking to unlock the
benefits of a crisis response that coordinates the range of capacities of the federal
government and other responders, but does so with the rapidity demanded by crisis
4 U.S. Senate Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs. 2006. Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still
Unprepared. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, p.26-19.
There are many reasons why the response to Hurricane Katrina was
insufficient. This case does not try to deal with all such issues, but instead focuses
on just one dyad, albeit an important one, in the Katrina response network. This
network saw a huge number of organizations responding to a central goal: reducing
the suffering and loss of life that resulted from the hurricane. Over 500
organizations were identified as involved in the
(see appendices 2 and 3).
It is hard to envision any single command directing all of the organizations that
responded to Hurricane Katrina. In part, this is because of the size of the network.
Many of the responders, especially from the non-profit and private sectors, were
not involved in pre-crisis planning, were not familiar with the ICS, and were simply
trying to help in any way possible. By contrast, the DOD had pre- designated
responsibilities and a better than average understanding of the ICS system. Even
with these advantages, collaboration between the DOD and FEMA was not always
smooth. Fostering intergovernmental collaboration and
collaboration between government and private and nonprofit organizations pose an
even greater challenge. But if the federal government struggles with crisis
coordination among its own agencies, it is unlikely to be able to foster collaboration
with others.
Appendix 1: Department of Homeland Security view of ICS management
Common terminology
Manageable span of control
Modular organization the command structure can be expanded
to meet the nature of the incident while maintaining a manageable span
of control. If the crisis expands, additional incident commands can be
added, all under the control of single area command
Management by objectives actors should identify objectives,
creating assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols to achieve
these goals. Written incident action plans should be produced on a
regular (typically daily) basis
Pre-designated incident location and facilities planning should
identify likely locations and facilities for ICS operations
Comprehensive resource management processes for
categorizing, ordering, dispatching, tracking, and recovering resources
that give a timely account of resource utilization
Integrated communications
Establishment and transfer of command the agency with
primary jurisdictional authority can identify the incident commander
Chain of command and unity of command clear lines of
authority where everyone has a designated supervisor
Unified command if there is shared jurisdiction, there may be
multiple incident commanders. If so, they should work together as a
single team
Accountability responders must check in via ICS procedures;
the incident action plan must be followed
Deployment personnel/equipment respond only when
requested or dispatched
Information and intelligence management a process must be
established for gathering and sharing incident-related intelligence
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2004, National Incident
Management System
Appendix 2: DODs Role in Disaster Response Functions in the National
Response Plan
Support Function
DOD’s Specific Role
1. Transportation Provides military liaison to ESF #1 desk and military transportation
to move resources, and assists in contracting for civilian aircraft
2. Communications Uses own resources to provide own communications and
coordinates numerous other communication issues with the Federal
Emergency Communications Coordinator
3. Public Works and
Army Corps ofEngineers provides technical assistance,
engineering, and constructionmanagement
4. Firefighting Conducts firefighting on DOD installations and assists other lead
agencies for firefighting on non-DOD land
5. Emergency
Management Annex
No specific role identified
6. Mass Care,
Housing, and
Human Services
Army Corps ofEngineers provides ice and water; inspects shelter
sites for suitability; and assists in construction of temporary shelters
and temporary housing repair
7. Resource Support No specific role identified
8. Public Health and
Medical Services
Transports patients to medical care facilities; assists with mortuary
procures and transports medical supplies; and provides DOD
medical supplies, blood products, medical personnel, laboratory
services, and logistics support
9. Urban Search and
When requested,serves as a primary source for rotary and fixedwing aircraft to support urban search-and-rescue operations; and
Army Corps ofEngineers provides (1) certain training and structural
integrity analysis, (2) assessments ofwhether buildings are safe to
enter, (3) building stability monitoring, and (4) other services
10. Oil and
Materials Response
Providesthe federal on-scene coordinator and directs response
actions for releases of hazardous materials from its vessels,
facilities, vehicles, munitions, and weapons; and Army Corps of
Engineers providesresponse and recovery assistance involving
radiological dispersion devices and improvised nuclear devices
11. Agriculture and
Natural Resources
Assesses (1) the availability of DOD food supplies and storage
facilities, (2) transportation equipment at posts near the affected
area, and (3) laboratory, diagnostic, and technical assistance; and
assists in animal emergency response; develops appropriate plans;
and the Army Corps ofEngineers provides expertise and resources
to assist in removal and disposal of debris and animal carcasses
12. Energy Coordinates emergency power team missions with power restoration
activities and provides appropriate support
13. Public Safety If directed by the President, quells insurrection and provides
and Security physical and electronic security systems assistance and expertise
14. Long Term Provides technical assistance in community planning, civil
Community engineering, and natural hazard risk assessment and supports
Recovery national strategy development for housing, debris removal, and
restoration of public facilities and infrastructure
15. External Affairs No specific role identified other than to provide support as required
Source: Report of the Committee on Homeland and Security and Governmental Affairs
Appendix 3: The number and type of organizations involved in
the response to Hurricane Katrina
Table 1
Frequency Distribution of Organizations Identified
in the Full Hurricane Katrina Response System*
Source of Funding
Special- Public Private Non-Profit Totals Interest
Level of N % N % N % N % N % Jurisdiction
International 11 2.1% 3 0.6% 5 0.9% 0 0.0% 19 3.6%
National 0 0.0% 24 4.5% 75 14.1% 1 0.2% 100 18.8%
Federal 67 12.6% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 67 12.6%
Regional 1 0.2% 7 1.3% 26 4.9% 0 0.0% 34 6.4%
State 79 14.8% 7 1.3% 4 0.8% 2 0.4% 92 17.3%
Sub-Regional 11 2.1% 12 2.3% 9 1.7% 0 0.0% 32 6.0%
Parish/County 55 10.3% 3 0.6% 1 0.2% 0 0.0% 59 11.1%
District 27 5.1% 2 0.4% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 29 5.4%
City 53 9.9% 27 5.1% 21 3.9% 0 0.0% 101 18.9%
Totals 304 57.0% 85 15.9% 141 26.5% 3 0.6% 533 100.0%
Source: Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA, August 27, 2005 September 19, 2005.
Taken from Comfort, Louise. The Dynamics of Policy Learning, unpublished paper.
Appendix 4: Visual representation of the Hurricane Katrina Response
Taken from Comfort, Louise. The Dynamics of Policy Learning, unpublished paper.

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