Prepared for disaster? Improving the Department of Defense's immediate response authority
Leshinsky, Eric L.
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Recent domestic emergencies such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 proved to many Americans that disaster preparedness, response and recovery are vital to America's national security. These tragic events raised doubts about the federal government's preparedness and competence to rapidly respond to crises, and increased political and public pressure to improve federal response capabilities, including the possibility of widening the U.S. military's role in homeland security and disaster response. However, before widening its role, the U.S. military must take on the initiative to evaluate and improve upon the military's current roles and mechanisms for providing effective and timely domestic incident management. Closer evaluation of the existing provisions and procedures for providing domestic military assistance is critical to this initiative and is desperately needed. This thesis examines one of the DoD's current provisions for providing immediate disaster response and assistance-the DoD's Immediate Response Authority (IRA). This thesis evaluates the IRA provision's role and capability to provide disaster assistance when first responders are wiped out or otherwise incapable of providing effective initial disaster response. Most would agree a "smarter" DoD role is more valuable than a larger one. This thesis explores various means to make the IRA provision "smarter" to help maximize resources and improve immediate military disaster response and assistance. This thesis also strives to determine where the DoD's IRA provision fits in relation to other federal and military response mechanisms and established national strategy and policy. The research identifies current barriers to the IRA provision's effectiveness, such as strategic guidance, oversight, and training, and also provides recommendations to help eliminate these barriers to eventually improve the overall effectiveness of this valuable resource for city, state, and federal first responders.
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