The application of influence of political and geography on politics and policies in 1964 are similar to the current geo-political environment. After taking office, President Johnson began a campaign to gain support for his Great Society social agenda. The Federal government would increase spending to combat poverty, resolve civil rights issues, and invest in building the nation’s infrastructure while managing the Vietnam conflict. Likewise, President Obama’s began a campaign to gain support for his social agenda to enact universal health care, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure through stimulus bills, and solve equality issues while administering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both social agendas were met with opposition because both required bi-partisan political support, agencies working alone or as part of an interagency process, and the public’s confidence in the US government (USG) to deliver on the promises of the programs. A national crisis can provide opportunities for the USG to gain the support and confidence of the American public.
The 1964 Alaskan earthquake provided the USG with that opportunity. Six days after the earthquake, President Johnson established the Federal Reconstruction and Development Planning Commission for Alaska (FRDPCA) that successfully coordinated efforts across all agencies to bring the necessary resources to aid Alaska in recovery and rebuilding operations. The Commission involved local and state officials early and often during the recovery and rebuilding process, ensuring it met the needs of the people. The successful response increased the public’s confidence and respect for the USG. This confidence gave President Johnson a boost in public support, which assisted in building legislative support to pass and enact many of the Great Society programs.
In contrast, the public confidence in the USG has been in decline over the past several years. The USG’s response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina began the downward trend of the public’s confidence. Hurricane Katrina quickly overwhelmed local and state resources and exposed the lack of crisis planning at various levels. The media began to show images of people stranded on rooftops, wading through flooded streets, and living in shelters without food, water, or medical care. The USG made many promises to provide aid but failed on several occasions. These failures began the erosion of public confidence in the USG and divided the nation along political lines thus hindering interagency collaboration. The current geo-political environment, unlike 1964, remains in a state of stalemate consequently making the management of the affairs of the nation complicated at best.
The Department of Defense (DOD) was correct in responding to the Alaska earthquake without authority. The US military believed that it had an inherent authority to provide assistance to an immediate humanitarian crisis. Since Alaska was new to the union, it lacked an established...