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Research Questions

  1. What are the most significant challenges and shortfalls in Puerto Rico's recovery effort?
  2. How have efforts in supply-chain management and recovery governance been orchestrated after disasters in other island venues over the past decade?
  3. What lessons in disaster management from Haiti, Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines could be relevant for Puerto Rico's ongoing efforts?

As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, effective supply-chain management and recovery governance will be vitally important to a successful outcome. The Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) team conducted field research in Puerto Rico to gain local perspectives regarding the biggest challenges the island is facing, and then assessed recovery challenges that four disaster-affected island countries (Haiti, Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines) faced over the past decade. The team also drew insights from other relevant cases featured in scholarly disaster management and public policy literature.

Against the backdrop of Puerto Rico's potential challenges, the HSOAC team assessed how similar issues were addressed in these other cases and what lessons—both positive and cautionary—emerged. The authors conclude by highlighting several overarching best practices that are widely used internationally, which Puerto Rico's authorities may wish to consider in restoring lives and livelihoods while also improving resilience to future disasters. In the near term, these recommended practices would include generating support for local involvement in recovery efforts; broadening private-sector investments in workforce development; crafting a comprehensive communications strategy; and adopting new tools for planning, monitoring, and evaluating projects and other initiatives. Over the longer term, two key recommendations would be to expand public-private partnerships focusing on disaster management, while also establishing a dedicated disaster recovery authority given Puerto Rico's location in a disaster-prone region.

Key Findings

Supply-chain dynamics are of paramount importance in managing critical recovery resources

  • Weaknesses in supply-chain planning, including projecting demand for materials and labor and prioritizing projects, create delays that hinder recovery and lead to sourcing and delivery bottlenecks.
  • Workforce shortages occur at all skill levels, especially in the construction domain. Importing workers can put pressure on housing markets and drive up costs.
  • Project managers have limited visibility into supply-chain flows, often focusing on specific sectors rather than cross-sector views.

Recovery governance is necessary for project management and stakeholder engagement

  • A permanent recovery authority gives communities an incentive and point of contact in undertaking preparatory activities.
  • Inadequate property ownership and land tenure records lead to disputes that may be difficult to resolve, and regulatory reforms may take years to implement.
  • A robust methodology for assessing, monitoring, and evaluating progress based on outcomes enhances recovery.
  • Community resettlements can cause significant distress, as well as frictions in communities unprepared to received displaced residents.
  • Acting quickly upon the preferences of community members may not be easy due to recovery strategy, government regulations, or technical barriers. Two-way communication and transparency in accounting for funding flows are important issues in the recovery effort.


  • Support local leadership of, and involvement in, recovery efforts.
  • Empower municipalities to design their own reconstruction plans and implement and disburse funds for projects.
  • Enable "owner-driven" reconstruction.
  • Broaden systematic private-sector involvement.
  • Use micro-loans to businesses to fuel recovery at the local level.
  • Establish special economic zones that provide tax and regulatory incentives to attract indigenous and international companies.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive communications strategy.
  • Adopt tools for planning, monitoring, and evaluating projects and initiatives.
  • Develop specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound objectives at all levels, supported by good data collection and monitoring practices.
  • Expand public-private partnerships and consortia focusing on disaster management.
  • Explore establishment of a permanent, dedicated disaster-recovery authority.
  • Pursue legislative reforms to fast-track the procurement of goods and pre-position them during recovery.
  • Establish material supply hubs and mechanisms for bulk commodity procurement.

This research was sponsored by FEMA and conducted within the Strategy, Policy and Operations Program of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.