FEMA’s David Kaufman Addresses Emergency Management Trends

Kaufman discusses the Strategic Foresight Initiative and how it will help guide efforts to better prepare people and programs.

by / March 19, 2012

David J. Kaufman serves as the director of FEMA’s Office of Policy and Program Analysis. He is responsible for providing leadership, analysis, coordination and decision-making support to the FEMA administrator on a wide range of agency policies, plans, programs and key initiatives.

Kaufman has been a faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, where he taught in the center’s graduate- and executive-level education programs, and has previously served in several senior positions in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

In his current position, he led the coordination effort to develop the Strategic Foresight Initiative (SFI). This initiative brought together a wide cross-section of the emergency management community to explore key future issues, trends and other factors, and to work through their implications. The result is a 36-page document titled Crisis Response and Disaster Resilience 2030: Forging Strategic Action in an Age of Uncertainty.

Kaufman responded to a series of questions about the report and its implications for the future of emergency management in the U.S.

Question: What was the impetus for establishing the SFI and how did it get initiated?

Answer: The SFI was established in 2010 to explore the factors driving change in our world, and to analyze how they will impact the emergency management field in the U.S. over the next 20 years. We wanted to understand the collective challenges and opportunities facing the emergency management community and to begin addressing those challenges and opportunities today. FEMA has coordinated the dialog and is providing the space for conversation.

How will the report help guide efforts to better prepare people and programs for the expected changes?

The report is intended to provide planners and managers with insights that can shape a range of critical decisions, starting now. Such decisions, which can be made in advance of disasters, include improving prioritization of resources and investments, managing new and unfamiliar risks, forging new partnerships, and understanding emerging legal and regulatory hurdles.

Although we have begun addressing our future needs, our progress is not enough. To build a more resilient, adaptive and proactive emergency management community, we must approach the future with urgency, and increase our pace of change. We hope that this report fosters the necessary conversations and ideas to do that.

Economic and political drivers were discussed. In the past, these might have been skipped, yet they can have a significant impact on the future. What drove the inclusion of these elements?

The reality of our current operating environment — globalization, increasing interdependencies in government institutions and business, and limited economic growth constraining government budgets and creating resource limitations — drove the inclusion of these drivers. These drivers are key influences on the strategic, long-term decisions we need to make today to maximize our capabilities in our daily operations in the future.

We live in an increasingly dangerous world. As you look at the hazards evolving, what are the challenges of potential cybersecurity and nuclear attacks?

The hazards we face continue to evolve and we have to stay ahead of the curve. Two drivers of change identified through the SFI process included technological innovation and dependency, and the evolving terrorist threat. We identified some trends in each of these drivers that could impact the future emergency management landscape. As we become more connected through mobile devices, sensors and monitoring technology, among other technological advancements, we have more data on which to base decisions, and we can understand faster what is going on in the world. However, these advancements also increase our vulnerabilities, including vulnerabilities to cyberattacks and other cyberevents.

Our research showed that terrorism will likely evolve in the coming decades. Some of the trends we identified include:

Eric Holdeman Contributing Writer

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.

He can be reached by emailTwitter and Google+.

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