Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act--Why is DOD Mentioned?

Over 90% of the over 200 nation-states in the world use their military for disaster relief and response efforts! Why? In many countries it is the best organized and equipped organization in the entire government! And perhaps also in the US? So is that the end of the explanation? No! Althought it has taken over 1/2 a century for the United Nations and the World Bank and other mulitlateral organizations to understand the impact of natural disasters on the economics and even survival of various nation-states that recognition has been slow to arrive. Yet almost intuitively the various nation-states (essentially the system created after 1648 and the Treaty of Westphelia)that have tried for almost four centuries to capture the organized violence of the modern (i.e. post gun-powder) world understood that whatever their societies, their economic system, their cultural beliefs, and even their future could be impacted by large scale unplanned events of a catastrophic nature. I have gone to some length to discuss the FACT and the LAW that restricted FEMA in its days of independence from planning for catastrophic events on this blog and elsewhere. So it was logical for the Congress to place DOD in the Stafford Act as the castastrophic response organization, including direct authority to operate 10 days prior to any incident/event that might result in a declaration. And time for that authority to be at least jointly placed with the civil agencies. But to continue the story! The military is designed to kill and destroy. Is this the paradigm you want to be behind the organization when dealing with the victims of a disaster? Several researchers including Dr. Kathleen Tierney, PhD and Dr. Christine Bevc, PhD of the University of Colorado have written of the paradigm of disaster as war. Yet this militarization has never really received the detailed analysis it requires and hopefully will get. Another failed paradigm IMO is diaster as a public works bonanza in our very contorted federal system. The real point unstated in use of the military is that it is less likely to be opposed by the population in its activities since it may largely be in exclusive possession of the tools of organized violence and therefor even ineffective humanitarian efforts by the military or one's which create long term issues are likely to be imposed including protection of the elites of any society. The earthquake this year in Hait shows how the US helped the elites and protected them from democratic revulsion by the impacted population and even now will be influencing the Haitian election for its Presidency.
So can the military be successfully employed beyond a show of force and assisting in mass care-feeding, watering, shelter, emergency medical care for the impacted population and should it even be assigned those roles?
Recently I have tried to interest the powers that be to try and understand how riots and civil disorders that are beyond the capability of STATE and LOCAL governments be dealt with in the US? So far no takers but the threat of this kind of event is ever present in a modern mass society and the response to such events needs to be documented and known! But I am looking beyond this type of incident/event to the futility of trying to do "effective" response and recovery that just does not perpetuate the cycle of more likely need for disaster response in the future. Director James Lee Witt has stated "that all disasters are political events" and others have stated "that all disasters are local"! These paradigms are to some extent correct. But they don't also reflect the careful balances on US society cultural and economic. It has always fascinated me that FEMA has never had a Chief Economist while it has many other kinds of Chiefs. It also does not have a Chief Anthropologist! And of course does not even employ seismologists, meterologists, historians, climatologists or many other disciplines. But it does employ a lot of retired uniform members of the various Armed Forces including the Coast Guard.
Unfortunately, DHS and FEMA really have no organized interface with the Department of Defense. If in fact these organizations in leading the federal response efforts under HSPD-5 and the Stafford Act are trying to push collaboration and cooperation why are they so unorganized to accomplish that fact? How do FEMA/DHS even train their people on military/civil issues, which are exceedingly complex and opaque, and difficult even for those with past military service to understand?
Well hopefully over next months and maybe years this blogger will try and at least give his opinion on some of these issues and related matters. But to make it absolutely clear to all readers, any reliance on the military for disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation in the civil sectors of US society is an erroneous paradigm and will ultimately cause more problems for our democracy (republic)! In fact I would argue that militarizism and democracy are in an inversely proportional relationship and to the extent the military is involved than the less democracy you will have.