Edited by Edoardo Ongaro, Andrew Massey, Marc Holzer and Ellen Wayenberg
Chapter 8: Dispersed Federalism: Regional Governance for Disaster Policy
Patrick S. Roberts When state and local officials went public with their disagreements with the US Department of Homeland Security, they drew attention to a widespread problem.1 The profusion of governmental and quasi governmental organizations, particularly across levels of government, led to confusion about who is responsible for public problems, and who has the authority to address them. This profusion of authorities has been conceived as the challenge of intergovernmental relations and multi-level governance – a challenge that is particularly acute for traditionally federal systems designed to allocate authority among hierarchical levels of government. This chapter investigates one possible solution to the difficulties of coordination and communication in US federal and intergovernmental relations. Dispersing central government authority and personnel out of Washington, DC to the regions they oversee offers an alternative to pure centralization and decentralization that combines the task and location specificity of major approaches to federalism. There are three sources for understanding what dispersed federalism might mean in the US context. First, politicians once proposed dispersing federal government agencies across the nation for security reasons during the Cold War. Second, the European experience with regional multi-level governance offers transferable ideas. Finally, in the US the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides an example of a regional system that has been underexploited. FEMA regions locate geographically-specific expertise in regions, but the regional organizations have little power to shape policy development or implementation. Experience with Cold War, European, and FEMA regions shows implementation challenges in establishing regions as governing entities. In...
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