The dual status commander and Hurricane Sandy: maturing military response with process improvement

Burke, Ryan P.
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University of Delaware
The U.S. military's role during civil support operations has significant strategic implications for U.S. homeland defense, national security, and emergency response efforts. In a large scale incident response scenario requiring combined military support from state National Guard and federal Armed Forces, management of these assets continues to challenge all involved. There are issues of constitutionality, legality, policy, financial considerations, and even politics that influence the use of military forces--both state and federal--in civil support scenarios. In this context, there is a philosophical conflict between federalism and state sovereignty during military civil support missions that continues to present itself as an impediment to success. Balancing these institutionally divergent approaches to achieve a unified, efficient, coordinated and effective military response continues to prove problematic. The accepted solution to this challenge, known as a dual status commander, legally authorizes a single military commander to serve in two duty statuses--state and federal--simultaneously while executing the duties of these statuses in distinctly separate capacities. Used for the first time in an unplanned capacity during the response to Hurricane Sandy in New York, the dual status commander concept demonstrated promise compared to past events. This dissertation uses a case study approach combining document review, semi-structured interviews, non-participant observation, and focus groups to examine the dual status commander-led response to Hurricane Sandy in New York under Joint Task Force Sandy. Using the data and information collected for the case study as a basis for qualitative analysis, a process improvement approach called maturity modeling is used to create a comprehensive list of operational best practices--or essential task considerations--that can be used to improve future mission performance and decision making. This process model, referred to as the Dual Status Commander Capability Maturity Model (DSC2M2) identifies goals, practices, and key requirements of successful dual status commander operations as seen by those involved in the planning, preparation, and execution of these critical operations. Building on this and the analysis presented during the Hurricane Sandy case study, the dissertation also includes fifteen strategy and policy-specific recommendations intended to help improve future unplanned domestic response operations.