photo by DVIDSHUB/Flickr.com
A U.S. Marine and a Philippine airman assist an injured Filipino woman off a KC-130J Super Hercules at Vilamore Air Base, Manila, Republic of the Philippines
This commentary appeared on U.S. News & World Report on November 12, 2013.
On Saturday, at the request of the Philippines Government, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel instructed Pacific Command to support humanitarian relief operations associated with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Logistics support, including maritime search and rescue, medium-heavy lift, fixed wing support and enablers will be provided. The Department of Defense has touted the importance of a “whole of government” approach to disaster relief that would integrate U.S. military and civilian agency assistance and link directly with those on the ground in affected countries.
This is a laudable and important effort, but it is an area where the U.S. government could stand to improve.
Prior responses to other recent disasters offer important lessons. One is that having too many responders can be as problematic as having too few. Our report, "Lessons from Department of Defense Disaster Relief Efforts in the Asia-Pacific Region," looked at relief efforts in Burma, Indonesia, Pakistan and Japan and found that precious time was sometimes wasted putting into place coordination mechanisms that could have been set ahead of time. Our research also showed that poor coordination can clog response systems that are already under great strain and, by creating redundancies, waste resources that could save lives.