Academic journal article Public Administration Review

A Framework for Analyzing Emergency Management with on Application to Federal Budgeting

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

A Framework for Analyzing Emergency Management with on Application to Federal Budgeting

Article excerpt

Disasters are calamitous natural or human-caused emergency events that suddenly result in extensive negative economic and social consequences for the populations they affect. While disasters vary in scale, all threaten the general welfare of some populace; thus, government intervention to minimize the negative consequences of disaster and--ultimately--to restore order, is warranted and expected. As Schneider asserts, "When a natural disaster occurs, few people stop to ask whether the government should intervene. Instead, citizens tend automatically to view the situation as a serious public problem requiring immediate governmental action" (1995, 9). In the United States, government involvement in emergency management has evolved through time into a complex policy subsystem. (2) Implementation of disaster policy is the province of a public administrative function known as emergency management, (3) the modern approach to which involves a multidimensional effort to reduce the threat of the occurrence and the magnitude of disasters and to prepare for, respond to, and recover from those that do occur.

Emergency management presents a formidable challenge for governments because of the extraordinary demands these events impose on the decision-making and service-delivery systems of the communities they affect. By definition, disasters exceed the capacity of the governments whose jurisdiction they strike. That is, the needs of the community during a disaster overwhelm the administrative and resource capabilities of the community's government and, as Granito notes, dealing with disaster "requires outside resources and the abandonment of the usual organizational routines" (1995, 44).

In the context of a federally structured government, when the capacities of government jurisdictions at lower levels are overwhelmed, higher levels are called upon to assist, either by supporting or supplanting the activities of the subordinate jurisdictions. As a result, emergency management is intrinsically an intergovernmental policy-implementation challenge. This article considers the complex and sophisticated, but not necessarily coherent, approach to intergovernmental policy implementation that has developed for managing disasters. It argues that the cost and effectiveness of disaster-response efforts are fundamentally driven by the characteristic capabilities and objectives of the particular level of government that is assigned or that assumes responsibility for conducting various emergency management activities.

This article will be presented in two main parts. The first part briefly reviews the nature of disasters, explains why it is hard for governments to manage them effectively, and describes the modern approach to emergency management that prevails in the United States. The discussion then reviews established theories of intergovernmental relations and consolidates these into a conceptual model of how emergency management roles should be distributed among governments. Next, the article evaluates the extent to which the functional competencies and behavioral incentives characteristic of the legislative and executive bodies at each level of government appear to be aligned with emergency management. The second part of the article will illustrate the interplay between incentives and competencies by examining an important dimension of emergency management, the federal disaster-funding process. The article will conclude by identifying some policy dilemmas in the field of emergency management that present avenues for future research in light of the conceptual framework developed here.

The Nature of Disasters and Disaster Management

A broad literature about emergency management and disaster policy has sprang up in recent years, spurred in particular by the 1985 Public Administration Review symposium "Emergency Management: A Challenge for Public Administration," and by the perceived failures of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in responding to hurricanes Hugo in 1989 and Andrew in 1992. …

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