Term Paper: Public Administration

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Public Administration

The field of Public Administration is littered with bureaucrats who believed that they were taking the most ethical actions. Yet, once an incident occurs, it is clear that the activities that took place before and after the incident highlight a number of situations, where unethical behavior has been used. Hurricane Katrina is a classic example of a number of ethical failures that occurred at all levels of government. Where, before and after the storm a number of different missteps took place that would have devastating effects on the City of New Orleans. A good example of this can be seen as far back as 1969, where the levy system of the city was designed to with stand a category 3 Hurricane. This is despite, the fact that a category 5 hurricane (Camille), would narrowly miss the hitting the city (during that same year). Then, many parts of the New Orleans are below sea level. (Boaz, 2005) What this shows, is how for a period of decades before Hurricane Katrina there was a series of missteps that was fueled by the unethical behavior of various administrators / bureaucrats. Then, after the storm this unethical behavior would add to the overall amounts of suffering and collateral damage. To fully understand the severity of this failure requires that you examine how the social, economic and political factors contributed to the problem. Then, examine how the various ethical failures contributed to the crisis. Together, these elements will provide the greatest insights as to what factors contributed to the failures of administrators / bureaucrats before and after Hurricane Katrina.

How would social, economic, and political factors apply?

Hurricane Katrina was a break down of government at all levels. Like what stated previously, the overall problems that help create the conditions for the severity of the disaster go back as far as decades before the storm. Where, the levies were initially designed to be weaker than the strongest storm to hit the region. Then, over the decades a series of incidents would help exacerbate the problem. What happened was the strength of the levies was consistently brought into question in a number of different reports, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers over the decades. This is because there was the assumption after Hurricane Camille, that New Orleans would not face a category 5 storm, anytime in the immediate future. As result, the levies were built to withstand a category 3 storm. With no major activity taking place, a number of different politicians and the general public would be fooled into thinking that the city was safe. Then, after a series of floods in 1995, the city's levy system was strengthened. However, it was not enough to protect the city against the category 5 hurricane. At which point, the Corps of Engineers proposed conducting several studies and possible upgrades to the levy system for category 4 or 5 storms. Several of the different studies, indicated, that the effects of such a storm would be devastating on the city. With a memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that was featured in the Houston Chronicle, which said that before the 911 terrorist attacks, "The three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America are: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all. It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening." (Handwerk, 2005)

This is significant because it describes the overall unethical behavior at the hands of various federal officials, who ignored the fact that the city was vulnerable to a hurricane. Socially, both the general public and politicians were living under the illusion that everything would continue to remain as normal. This is despite the fact that much of the city is below sea level and it has been affected by floods in the past. Economically, the politicians were not willing to spend the added amounts of money to upgrade the city's levy system to withstand a category 5 storm. Where, the costs were estimated to be billions of dollars and the necessary modifications would take years to complete. Then, there were pressures within Washington to cut funding to programs that maintained the levies. A good example of this occurred after 2003, where the overall funding for maintaining and repairing the levies was reduced. This is because the additional funds were being diverted to fund military operations in Iraq. Politically, all of the different levels of government felt that they were ready for the disaster. However, no organization or planning would take place on even the most basic levels of government. An example of this can be seen on the local level, where the City of New Orleans did not have any kind of emergency evacuation plan. In this particular case, everyone of the different political leaders knew that the storm was strengthening. Then, to make matters worse, on the night before the storm arrived, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin received a call from the Director of the National Hurricane Center urging him to evacuate the city. Instead, of heading this advise, local officials set up the Convention Center and the Superdome as relief centers for the city. In each of these different scenarios, the overall ethical failure of: reducing suffering as much as possible was ignored by all levels of government for decades. This is an ethical failure, because no was focusing on preventing a disaster from occurring. Instead, the different political leaders would assume that the city would continue to remain safe. This is despite the fact that it is below sea level, the levies were strong enough to handle category 3 storms and the fact that the city had narrowly missed a category 5 storm in 1969. Over the course of time, this attitude of complacency would lead to the ethical failures that were only added to the overall amounts of suffering. (Reynolds, 2005)

Another way that ethical failures contributed to overall severity of Hurricane Katrina can be seen in the breakdown within communication. (Cole, 2008) The most important objective of any rescue / recovery operation should be to eliminate suffering as much as possible. This means having the various first responders delivering supplies to those areas that were hardest hit. All levels of government failed to achieve this objective because of rivalries and miscommunication. Once this took place, it meant that it would create number of different problems. Socially this would create an atmosphere of lawlessness throughout the city. As there was no way for people to be safely evacuated from the city, much less receive supplies. Economically, this lack of communication would destroy many businesses that were looted in aftermath of the storm. This occurred because there were no supplies brought to those areas most affected, which created an atmosphere of desperation as looting became rampant. ("Looters Strike Advantage of New Orleans Mess," 2005) Politically, this issue would create rivalries and finger pointing as to who was responsible for the situation occurring. Together the different factors would affect the overall ethical goal of reducing suffering as much as possible. Where, it would lead to an ethical failure as a breakdown occurred in social structures, because there was no support for those suffering in the aftermath of the storm.

How would the ethical failures affect these contexts?

These different ethical failures would only increase the overall amount of suffering, deaths and property damage. Had the various levels of government planned many decades to strengthen the levies of the city, a catastrophe may have been averted. This is because if a focus had been placed on preparing for the worst, all levels of government would have been prepared what could have happened. Where, the issues surrounding evacuation, areas of responsibility and communication would have been discussed. This is significant, because with any kind of planning for either man made or natural disasters, you must know how to effectively deal with such situation. The fact that no one was thinking ahead underscores, the lax attitude that many officials and the general public had about the possible dangers. As a result, the lack of planning would mean that many supplies and first responders would not be able, to reach those areas of the city that were hardest hit by the storm. Once this took place, it only meant that the overall extent of damage and casualties would climb dramatically. As all of the different government officials would face public outrage, at how unprepared they were for such a situation. This is despite the fact that billions of dollars were spent in reorganizing the different levels of government; to most effectively respond to these kinds of incidents. (Hoffman, 2007)

Clearly an ethical failure occurred at all levels of government, as no one was most concerned about the largest objective before and after the storm, to reduce suffering as much as possible. The reason why this is an ethical failure is:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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