9/11: Ten Years Later

In a few days, the country will have the 10 year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. It’s a day of infamy that many of us can still recall vividly. In the wake of the attacks, federal and state officials rallied loudly for better collaboration between agencies, increased funding for various public servants, especially first responders, and enhanced equipment that would improve national security. At the federal level, there was  reorganization of national security agencies.

On the cusp of the anniversary, two surveys were released that addressed the nation’s administrative and management preparation for another attack. The first report conducted by Capella University addressed the question ‘How Prepared Are We 10 Years After 9-11?’ The second report conducted by Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton examined government reorganization in the wake of 9/11. The reports come to some similar conclusions, albeit from two different perspectives.

The first general consensus is that the country is better prepared for another attack as a result of the changes that came immediately following Sept. 11. Second, the reports agree that public administrators play a major role in reorganization and preparation.

The Capella report, conducted in conjunction with several national organizations including ASPA, asked 1,000 public service and public safety professionals for their opinion on issues regarding funding, collaboration, staffing, and response.  The findings revealed that while 71 percent of the respondents believe that the country is better prepared for another attack, there is still 61 percent that is worried that the government (federal, state and local) is not giving enough attention to the issue of preparedness.  Among the other findings by the Capella survey:

  • Eighty-eight percent said that funding is distributed according to politics and not the needs of organization and agencies that provide emergency response;
  • Fifty-eight percent have seen a decrease in budgets;
  • Forty percent expect that their organizations and agencies will have fewer staff in five years;
  • Forty percent said that collaboration between state, federal and local agencies has improved somewhat since 9/11.

These are not far-fetched conclusions from the PPS/Booz Allen Hamilton report on government reorganization. Within the public administration sphere, reorganization is a common response from governments to a crisis.  The PPS/Booz Allen Hamilton report found that the reorganization of federal agencies post 9/11 i.e. the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was beneficial to developing a structure for national preparedness but there was a lack of attention to the management processes.  The PPS/Booz Allen Hamilton report found that:

  • Chain of command is necessary but not sufficient in government reorganization;
  • The intangibles such as vision, mission and culture of the proposed organization, must be integrated into the reorganization process;
  • Development of management systems and processes must be integral to the reorganization;
  • Establishment of the new organization must be integrated and considered within the larger system.

While some of these conclusions may seem obvious, they reinforce the need for extra action within the next few years by elected and public leadership to improve the disaster and crisis response system in the U.S. Both the PPS/Booz Allen Hamilton report and the Capella survey reveal that the work to protect the nation is NOT done.

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