Research

Michelle Wong, Supply Chain & Marketing Science, Political Science

Advisor: Kevon Rhiney, Geography

This study analyzes the United States government’s failed response to Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. By leveraging supply chain concepts, this study aims to isolate the root causes of FEMA’s failures to implement its disaster management processes effectively, then provide potential remedies for these operational gaps. The sources used in this study include FEMA publications, congressionalrecords, and popular press. I find that chief failings in the US disaster relief effort were: FEMA’s practical disaster management frameworks; FEMA’s mistakes prior to, during, and after the hurricanes made landfall in Puerto Rico; and longstanding impediments to the people of Puerto Rico to shape their own policy regarding disaster management. Based on these findings, I contend that Puerto Rico was set up for failure and the US Federal Government has not been held accountable for failing to deliver on its responsibilities as defined by its own policies. To address some of these failures, I recommend that disaster management in the United States should leverage supply chain integration, create mechanisms for accountability in fulfilling roles and responsibilities, and ensure that for all government organizations, designated responsibilities correspond with relative capacity and resources.