Self-reflection is not always brutally honest.
I've often said that I learned from others that, no matter how bad the disaster exercise and response went, you stand up and "Declare victory and thank everyone for making the event successful." This then is what does happen again and again.
After-action reports don't normally point fingers out of politeness and a desire to maintain relationships with people and organizations. Thus, if there are systemic issues that won't go away until people or attitudes change, and new plans and procedures are embraced — the same mistakes will continue.
Then there is the issue of self-evaluations which are difficult to accomplish when the report is public.
Check out this article, The climate is changing, but our disaster-response system isn’t keeping up, experts say.
Likely we won't see the establishment of an outside agency for investigative authority, like the National Transportation Safety Board which is independent and its investigations let the chips fall where they may. It will take a true calamity of epic proportions that does not go well to make that happen. And then, it will likely only impact federal agencies like FEMA and not reach down into state and local jurisdictions — which is where the blame often should be placed for disasters, like Katrina, that did not go well.
Note, in an earlier blog post, Making the Case for More Realistic Disaster Exercises, I had an interview with University of Washington Professor Hans Scholl who has looked at both exercises and actual events to dissect what really went on. Failing having a federal agency, perhaps all that we can hope for is more rigor coming from an academic perspective.
Joanne Brower shared the link above.