Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 20, 2014

William Cumming on emergency management as an organizational process in governance

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues,Resilience — by Arnold Bogis on August 20, 2014

Long time (perhaps the longest?) HLSWatch commentator William Cumming has a guest blog up on Eric Holdeman’s Disaster Zone blog. And he doesn’t nibble around the edges:

Increasingly, I am supportive of the notion that emergency management is not a contrived subject or profession but in fact underlies much of organizational process that leads to various forms of governance.

I’m not sure if I accept this notion, but it is a big idea. However, I do think his opinion on the use of the military in most other nations for emergency management responsibilities is an important insight.

Well in my opinion, emergency management is the worst form of organizational response to crisis management and resilience (that includes elements of preparedness, planning, prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery) except all others. What alternative choices are there?

One big one is a military command and control system that actually can prevent effective collaboration and cooperation, whether among individuals, NGOs, governments or other spontaneously developing post-disaster organizations. Since more than 90 percent of the nation-states have vested their EM function in their military, organizationally designed to inflict maximum organized violence on some other group or nation-state, I find that this approach is largely vested in a leadership’s desire for control and resurrecting the status quo ante. These factors are not absent from emergency management but seem more likely not to dominate when the civil sector is dominate.

He goes on to provide five building blocks for emergency management going forward.  Please see Holdeman’s blog for the full text as it is well worth your time to read. It is also worth pointing out here his summary:

In summary, perhaps the system of emergency management must promote collaboration and cooperation so that the system is supportive of the best resilience. And while individual brilliance will from time to time appear and needs to be utilized, systems and processes must reflect the collective wisdom of those involved with the emergency management process in any crisis or disaster.

What I like here is the focus on process and system.  Often, at least it seems to me, leadership development and education is held up as the holy grail of homeland security development.  I believe Bill is pointing out that while when you get exceptional, or even adequate, leadership good things follow but the most important thing is to develop an overall system within which best practices are developed, shared, and implemented.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn


Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2014 @ 1:57 am

No “S” on Cumming but thanks Arnold. And just a note VP Cheney long hated FEMA and after Hurricane’s Hugo and Andrew openly advocated for disaster response and recovery to be a military function.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2014 @ 2:13 am

Perhaps other definitions hold for HS and EM but mine follow:

Emergency Management is the organization of the governmental and non-governmental organizational response at the national level (federal, state, and local) to unexpected events that threaten public health and safety and property, and the civil sector preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery to and from those events.

Homeland Security is the prevention of terrorist acts, the reduction in the consequences of those events on people and property, and the response and recovery from those terrorist events

Comment by John Comiskey

August 21, 2014 @ 4:37 am

Madmen, HLS, and relationships

HLS is preventing/mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from all-hazards. It takes a Whole Community.

Members of the HLS enterprise must, contingent, on the circumstances, do what they can and not do what they should not do to save lives, property, and the American way of life.

HLS is largely about relationships. Who knows who and who can do the best job most effectively unilaterally/collaboratively (again contingent on the circumstances: See Kettle’s contingent coordination).

HLS is a lot about preparedness. To prepare for the final season of Madmen, my wife and I decided to watch all previous seasons. We realized that we had missed season one and much of season two.

Madmen had a lot on their minds. Besides a lot of drinking, womanizing, smoking, and selling advertisement, they were very business-like. They rewarded those who produced and commensurately benefited the firm. At one point, the accounts manager is let go and is replaced by two junior account managers. The firm’s accounts are divided between the two junior account managers in the hopes that they will compete with each other. The assignment of one client (Utz) is disputed. Why does he get Utz? Answer, because it is about relationships. No further questions.

Like business, HLS is ultimately about relationships.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

August 21, 2014 @ 5:18 am

Bill, sorry about that. Fixed.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2014 @ 9:46 am

John C! Is there any written analysis anywhere of all of DHS or any of its parts are All-Hazard either before or after integration into DHS?

I think some of my recent comments cover the fact that even FEMA and its predecessors are not an All-Hazard organizations. Example Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills.

The federal civil defense program that ran from 1951-1994 under the authority of Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress as amended did some research on WMD but the main program focus was strategic nuclear attack!
At almost the end of its existence that program was made statutorily an All-Hazards authority but too late to cause it to survive, and almost no focus on terrorism.

In fact I find little reference to All-Hazards in any statutory authority presently vested in the President, or Secretary DHS, or Administrator FEMA.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 21, 2014 @ 11:24 am


The national HLS strategy is the 2010 National Security Strategy. All-hazards is mentioned therein.

Many DHS documents including the 2014 QHSR identify the all-hazards approach to HLS. BTW, the 2014 NSS is due out any day.

I do not argue that statutory all-hazards HLS legislation exists. All-hazards policy, yes.

All-hazards analysis, what a great idea!

Considering the Executive Legislation blizzard, i.e. Bush and Obama, who needs laws? This is not to say that I do not believe in executive prerogative. EOs have existed since Washington. Elections have consequences/benefits.

Pelfrey and Kelley wrote in 2013 that America has grown accustom to HLS activities. What were previously aspirations are now expectations.
See http://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=9.1.3

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

Thanks John!

I will be discussing an important George W. Bush Executive Order tomorrow in the FFF!

E.O. 13407 signed June 26, 2006 and published in the FEDERAL REGISTER at 71 Fed. Reg. pp 36975-77!


Comment by William R. Cumming

August 28, 2014 @ 7:50 am

Is the discipline of EM largely devoted to BEFORE THE BOOM or AFTER THE BOOM? HOW OR WHY?

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>