The issue about the ability of public servants to serve the best interest of the public through a solid public governance and administration system has always been an important point in related debates and discussions. In this paper, the focus will be on the role of the Administrative Theory, its related perspectives and paradigm, and how disaster response actions act as a mirror reflecting the state of public service, and the significance (or lack of) of the Administrative Theory in today’s world.
Disasters, some say, bring out the best in everyone. If this was true, then the worst disasters can be used to gauge public service and the ability and competence of public servants as well as the use and significance of dogmas, structures, policies, beliefs and design of pubic administration in the modern day life. An example of one of the deadliest modern day natural disaster is Hurricane Katrina.
“Hurricane Katrina may be the largest natural disaster in dollar terms in U. S. history, with damage exceeding $50 billion (Birkland, 2006, p. 105). ” Hurricane Katrina, for its ferocity, strength, and extent of damage is a good case study in the assessment of public service doctrine use and compatibility, as well as the competence and ability of the people working under these public service perspectives to cope and cooperate successfully under a pre-defined dogma.
Ideally, the Administrative Theory was designed so that a particular process and protocol is established so that actions of different individuals, serving to be able to accomplish one purpose, are constructive and contributing towards the achievement of a particular goal, in essence making the theory the catalyst of the start of a process that can provide assistance. The Administrative Theory, as an idea, is always expected to influence constructive and positive output from any endeavor (i. e. response to a natural disaster).
But in application, the use of the existing paradigm for Administrative Theory is not always assisting the efforts during a natural disaster. Sometimes it also hinders the effective delegation of assistance and response by individuals and agencies during a natural disaster because it is incomplete and not fully suitable for the present design of local and federal governance as it is applied in the United States.
The best example to use as a case study to determine Administrative Theory’s characteristic as being unsuitable and incomplete when used in the current system of governance in the United States is the administration problems that happened during the Hurricane Katrina disaster response and management. Following the idea of the Administrative Theory, members of the agencies responsible for responding to the victims of Hurricane Katrina should have effortlessly handled the situation considering that everyone has a task to fulfil.
What the Administrative Theory failed to discuss and include in its parameters is the complexity brought about by inter-agency operation present during the Hurricane Katrina disaster management action and similar incidents. Because of the rigors of the Administrative Theory and the limitations that are found in the theory’s nature and essence, how the people acted and reacted with each other during the disaster response was far from being smooth and flawless.
In the assessment of the Hurricane Katrina public administration efforts for disaster response and assistance, observers can see that in employing the ideas found in the Administrative Theory (as well as with consideration to other factors too), the situation became more problematic and complicated. “Then Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, virtually destroying New Orleans and many smaller communities along the Gulf Coast.
Although arguments continued long afterward about the adequacy of federal, state , and local emergency response, in the minds of many Americans government had failed its most basic responsibility: to help its citizens in a time of dire need and to protect them from further harm (Stivers, 2008, p. 73). ” Because of this, it can be considered that the Administrative Theory can be considered as a source of hindrance and not a source of assistance in the effective action during natural disaster response, assistance and management.
What are the issues? There is just one important issue that is connected with the assessment of the impact of the Administrative Theory and the disaster management during Hurricane Katrina. This is the assessment of the administrative aspect of the local and federal government, and why many individuals believe that in general such efforts failed.
The Hurricane Katrina and how the government (local and federal) responded, cooperated and interacted during the disaster management efforts provided a classic case wherein administrative theories and its use or absence is seen and reflected. The issue focuses on the fact that despite the country’s capability – material and theoretical – to respond well and effectively during disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The effort was considered as a failure, owed largely to the role of the existing public administration approach.
The presence of Administrative Theory aspects, in this case, and how this particular disaster management effort brings to light what is lacking in the current public administration theories and models. The realization, all in all, is that the ensuing complexity of local and federal governance makes elusive the perfect formula for effective public administration and governance in different levels, including disaster response and management.
“People who study and practice administration often take the view, perhaps only half-consciously, that if only the right formula for organizing work and assigning responsibility can be found, things will fall into place and everything will run smoothly – or, at least, more so than before. Many of the post-Katrina criticisms levelled at governments have centered on failure to coordinate rescue efforts. These charges reflect the continuing belief in the power of the right system. Certainly they mark the belief that there is a right system (Stivers, 2008, p. 73). ”
Who are the actors? In the assessment of the Hurricane Katrina and the assessment of the Administrative Theory perspective in the effort to provide disaster response, assistance and management in the location of the disaster, it is important to identify the actors (individuals and agencies) who took part in the effort who may or may not be responsible not only for what measure of success there is in the endeavor but also in the failure of the parameters and perspective of the Administrative Theory in this particular scenario.
The Administrative Theory talks about roles and responsibilities, but it did not explain how complexities of these things should be addressed during interagency response to natural disasters, something that happened during Hurricane Katrina. “Interagency relationships lead to well documented problems associated with unclear authority and responsibility. The House committee examining the government response to Hurricane Katrina blames all levels of government, from the White House, to Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, to Mayor Ray Nagins of New Orleans, for the delayed response to the storm (Callahan, 2006, p.
139). ” This is just a ballpark assessment of the list of characters involved who also contributed to the failure of the disaster rescue and assistance action, despite administrative practices and because of the incompetence of such measures in handling real life scenario. Other participants are identified by the National Response Plan (NRP) program of the government, which identifies the federal as well as non federal agencies and organizations which should be involved in the time of disaster management (Hogan, Burnstein, 2007, p. 151).
But NRP in itself was considered by some as problematic. “As Hurricane Katrina plowed ashore, this cumbersome and contradictory schematic of national disaster response was about to be put to a stern test (Cooper, Block, 2007, p. 130). ” There are also some other actors who are involved in this interagency action and it included government entities (military, paramedic, search and rescue units, office of the mayor and governor, etc) as well as private (NGOs and private citizens).
What leads the various actors to make the choices or take the positions that they do? There are several reasons that could answer the question about the motivation of the actors to act or decide as they did at the height of the Hurricane Katrina. This may include accountability, responsibility, initiative, instinct or even the sense of direction coming from an existing protocol and systematic approach to problems such as this. How each actor weighs each and any of these is another consideration.
Some of these maybe personal forces (i. e. instinct, initiative, a sense of ethics and responsibility, personal clarity of mind and sense of direction during crisis, etc), while other possible motivation maybe organization forces. There are also other reasons, like the absence of a possible course of action that directs everyone involved inside a particular course of action for this eventuality. “The NRP offers no clear guidance on what distinguishes a run-of-the-mill disaster from a catastrophic event.
But generally, catastrophic events imperil the national leadership, echo through the national economy and cause national disruptions (Cooper, Block, 2007, p. 130). ” What are the organizational forces? Even if there were aspects of the Administrative Theory in use during the effort to provide assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina which can be categorized as organization forces, some of these aspects maybe considered useless as well because these forces (like the push and pull of the initiatives and information of the people working under the system) are not properly acted upon.
Take for example, the characteristic of the Administrative Theory about the idea of chain of command and information sharing based on a ladder-type hierarchy. This aspect was in use, pre-Katrina, as well as during and after the Katrina crisis. But critics believe that it was a failure nonetheless because the response of the individuals to the information shared through the chain of command was not properly acted upon. Because of this, there were feelings of dismay and low moral, and some people integral in this chain of command, realizing the breakdown and futility of such design, resigned from their position.
“Matthew Broderick, head of the DHS Operations Directorate and the HSOC, resigned effective March 31, 2006, following the House of Representatives report on Katrina, which singled him out for failing to inform high-level officials of Katrina’s devastating impacts… William Carwile, a veteran FCO who had been put in charge of the Katrina response for Mississippi and who had struggled to inform the administration that Katrina’s impacts were truly catastrophic, resigned his post and left government service shortly after Katrina (Tierney, Bevc, 2007, p. 48). ” What are the external forces?
While external forces were hardly discussed as source of the failure of the operation to answer the devastation of Katrina immediately and in the long term, there may also be external forces at play in this situation. This may include the presence of political consideration of political leaders that could have affected and influenced the actions that they took during the disaster. Foreign aid and support, as well as foreign pressure, and the threats coming from the outside which may aggravate the situation inside Mississippi and New Orleans, may have also contributed to the turn out of the rescue and assistance efforts.
Courtney from Study Moose
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