Beyond the Storms: Strengthening Homeland Security and Disaster Management to Achieve Resilience

  • Published

Beyond the Storms: Strengthening Homeland Security and Disaster Management to Achieve Resilience by Dane S. Egli and M. E. Sharpe, 2014, 214 pp.

This monograph comprises a main body of 89 pages, with eight appendices totaling 110 pages attached. The author, Dr. Dane Egli, a career Coast Guard officer, is a national security senior advisor at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. His work is based on an extensive list of references, interviews with 35 subject-matter experts, 14 case summaries, and his own noteworthy personal expertise. Its intended audience is the “constellation of students, planners, leaders, and decision makers . . . who are responsible for formulation and implementation of national and homeland security resilience and preparedness policy” (xvi). It is “designed to serve as a catalyst for timely policy development, innovative disaster management, and improved preparedness . . . through a new focus on critical infrastructure resilience” (xvii).

The book has five introductory chapters covering context, background and assumptions, threats and challenges, and a policy and literature review. These are followed by a two-page chapter explaining the author’s methodology. The 93 major findings, “derived inductively from a combination of case studies (Appendix A), subject-matter expert interviews (Appendix C), relevant external documents (Appendix F), and strategic policies and references” (72), are then listed. They are divided into 18 categories and range from general observations to assessments of existing policies and processes to recommendations for action. Unfortunately, without context or explanation, this format requires the reader to make necessary connections and analyses. For example, finding 7.60 asserts that social media and networking are “important areas to explore for application to preparedness and resilience operations” (78). The reader finds an example of the role of social networking sites in the case summary of the 2011 earthquake off Japan’s coast in Appendix A (113–14). There is also a one-paragraph summary of interviewee comments regarding the importance of social networking in Appendix C (168). Finally, in Appendix D, “Supporting Data for Major Findings,” there is a two- paragraph discussion of the implications of social media (184). The author’s 20 recommendations are presented similarly—a list without discussion or explanation. There is no assessment of priorities, feasibility, or potential costs and funding, and in most cases it is unclear who or what organization would be responsible for implementation.

These organizational choices are a fatal flaw. By separating the findings and recommendations from the material from which they are derived, the author has removed all but the most superficial of logical relationships and argumentation. Beyond the general assertion that critical infrastructure resilience needs to be improved, there is no central focus or thesis to the report. Without a clearly reasoned, well-supported argument, the stated purpose of catalyzing action will be unfulfilled. Ultimately, this book does not provide effective ammunition for those who are already convinced of the need for improvements; nor does it present a convincing argument to skeptics.

There are two alternatives that would have been much better choices for organizing the material. The author makes brief reference to the application of “collective action theory” to the problem of critical infrastructure resilience and includes a summary of this theory as one of his “cases.” If he had, in fact, used collective action theory as a framework and analyzed its implications in depth, it would have been a great service to the community of thinkers on resilience. Alternatively, he summarizes his major findings in the preface (xvi–xvii). These six general observations could have been used as a framework for organizing his research and analysis.

There are other significant weaknesses, such as problems with the author’s handling of sources and multiple incomplete or confusing citations, as well as cases where it seems a citation is warranted but none included. Additionally, the overuse of numbered and bulleted lists and acronyms, coupled with poor editing, results in difficult reading in many sections.

This topic is vitally important to our nation, and this book raises important issues and ideas. As it is, however, I regret that I cannot recommend it.

Dr. Karen Wilhelm
Adjunct Professor of Public Policy
George Mason University

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."