The Interagency

From the Essay: “About the Interagency”

by Bob Ulin

In recent years there has been much discussion, frustration and angst about the lack of cooperation and coordination between and among agencies and departments of the federal government in response to disasters (natural and manmade) and overseas contingencies. The latest frustration occurred as we watched, for nearly three months, millions of gallons of crude oil gush into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Retired Admiral Thad Allen, the President’s on-scene commander, coordinated disparate and diverse organizations each with their own leadership, laws, regulations and authorities and, to make it even more difficult, he had to coordinate response activities within various political jurisdictions—local, state and federal. In 2005 the response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the difficulty of fashioning a whole of government approach to disaster response. At that time Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, Commander of Joint Task Force Katrina with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division and the usual mix of local, state and federal agencies rallied to save lives and restore order.

In the aftermath of that disaster Congress studied the problem and separate commissions worked to identify issues. That was five years ago. Are we better off today than we were back then? One would hope. It seems we are quick to study our failing, but slow to develop and codify effective interagency and inter-governmental solutions.

Read more “About the Interagency