in the committee’s view, the disaster management community has not been nearly as broadly successful.
The following are among the complicating factors:
Disaster management organizations often lack the resources to acquire valuable capabilities. Responsibility for disaster management is widely distributed among agencies and organizations at all levels of government— with resources and operational responsibilities mainly concentrated at the local level. These organizations have vastly different technologies and capabilities. These characteristics lead to highly scattered adoption and lengthy adoption cycles and a highly fragmented market for disaster management IT. Moreover, many of the organizations are small and have very constrained budgets for IT. Most acquisition resources are focused on capabilities to improve day-to-day operations, whereas disaster management is, by definition, not a routine activity. Some of what agencies do acquire specifically for disaster incidents nonetheless becomes “shelf-ware”—unused even when the need for which it was acquired arises.
Both the development and the deployment of many promising technologies are risky and costly compared with the opportunity presented by the commercial market for these technologies today. For example, there are sensors that would be very useful for assessing in real time the status of the built environment. However, developing and manufacturing such sensors for the uncertain and highly cost-constrained disaster management market do not constitute attractive commercial opportunity at this time.
In most agencies with disaster management responsibilities, there is no one who is charged specifically with tracking IT technology, identifying promising technologies, integrating them into operations, or interacting with IT vendors to make sure that needs are addressed. Many organizations are too small to grow and support significant in-house expertise, and they naturally look to vendors to provide turn-key solutions, which may mean that the organization’s long-term, broad needs are not fully met. Long intervals occur between acquisitions, with the result that any institutional learning that does occur is likely lost in the interim. The acquisition dynamics created by this situation tend to limit the potential market, leading IT vendors to adapt IT technologies only slowly for use in disaster management. There is no focal point for addressing these issues at the federal level, further contributing to the problem. Finally, the complexity of IT systems and the organizational changes that they introduce are often met with resistance and ambivalence by both managers and users, especially in the absence of a technology “champion.”
Decisions regarding IT tend to be made independently by local organizations that must work together in disasters. Organizations with disaster management responsibilities are typically highly independent and have lim-