Lessons from Department of Defense Disaster Relief Efforts in the Asia-Pacific Region

Lessons from Department of Defense Disaster Relief Efforts in the Asia-Pacific Region

Jennifer D. P. Moroney
Stephanie Pezard
Laurel E. Miller
Jeffrey Engstrom
Abby Doll
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 172
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  • Book Info
    Lessons from Department of Defense Disaster Relief Efforts in the Asia-Pacific Region
    Book Description:

    The Department of Defense has long played a major role in humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) operations due to its unique capabilities, manpower, and forward-deployed resources. The Asia-Pacific region is of particular importance because it bears the brunt of the majority of the world’s natural disasters and is home to key U.S. allies. In an effort to improve the effectiveness of such operations, this report analyzes recent HA/DR operations in Burma, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Japan, and identifies lessons that can be applied in the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8195-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    This report analyzes recent humanitarian HA/DR operations to identify useful lessons for the U.S. government (USG) and the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD has long been able to play a major role in international disaster relief thanks to its budget, manpower, and forward-deployed resources. The Asia-Pacific region is of particular importance to the United States because it bears the brunt of more than half of the world’s natural disasters and is home to numerous key U.S. allies. This report analyzes recent HA/DR operations in the region to take stock of lessons that have emerged and ensure greater success in the...

  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Over 60 percent of the world’s natural disasters occur in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is the most capable, most prepared, and best-equipped nation to respond to these crises. The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) niche assets include air and sealift capabilities to transport large numbers of personnel and humanitarian supplies; distribution and supply-chain management logistics capabilities with professional logisticians specially trained in disaster relief; extensive debris-clearing and infrastructure-reconstruction capabilities, including engineering support; communications infrastructure for both military and nonmilitary counterparts; and an abundance of emergency medical support.

    Consequently, DoD has participated in more than 40 humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR)...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Cyclone Nargis (Burma)
    (pp. 15-40)

    The DoD relief operation prompted by Cyclone Nargis in Burma in May 2008 represents an extreme case of the challenges HA/DR providers encounter when the affected country has an autocratic regime wary of international interference. All foreign assistance providers—state and non-state—experienced major obstacles in obtaining visas to enter the country. Once in Burma, they encountered additional bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining the travel authorizations necessary to reach affected populations in the Irrawaddy Delta.

    While access was the primary concern of all HA/DR providers, DoD faced particular challenges because tensions were high between the Burmese junta and the United States....

  11. CHAPTER THREE Padang Earthquake, West Sumatra (Indonesia)
    (pp. 41-56)

    The earthquake that struck the western coast of Sumatra Island on September 30, 2009, represents a type of disaster with which Indonesia has become all too familiar. The Indonesian archipelago is located on the so-called Ring of Fire, an area particularly prone to seismic activity due to the collision of the Indian-Australian, Pacific, and the Philippines tectonic plates.¹ As a result, Indonesia has experienced 38 earthquakes of magnitude 6.3 or above since 2005.² The 2009 West Sumatra earthquake, in this regard, highlights some lessons for DoD on responding to a “routine” disaster likely to repeat itself in the future.


  12. CHAPTER FOUR 2010 Monsoon Floods (Pakistan)
    (pp. 57-84)

    Beginning in July 2010, abnormally intense monsoon rains in Pakistan resulted in massive flooding as rivers overflowed, creating the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history. About one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory was flooded (as shown in Figure 4.1), and one in eight Pakistanis was directly affected. The flooding constituted a slow-moving and complex disaster that unfolded over many weeks. The vast scale of the disaster presented huge challenges to the Government of Pakistan (GoP), including the Pakistani military in its first-responder role.

    The overall international response to the disaster was large, and the United States was the greatest single contributor to...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE The Great East Japan Earthquake/Operation Tomodachi (Japan)
    (pp. 85-108)

    In the early afternoon on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 130 kilometers off the shore of Sendai, on the eastern coast of Honshu Island, Japan. Within less than an hour, tsunami waves measuring up to 40 meters high crashed almost six miles inland, inundating 561 square kilometers. With a population of 14.8 million people, the prefectures along the northeastern coast were the worst affected, with 129,500 houses destroyed and 265,324 severely damaged by the earthquake, tsunami, or ensuing fires.¹ Figure 5.1 shows the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The disaster was compounded by events at...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Findings and Recommendations
    (pp. 109-122)

    Humanitarian relief is a “core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct with proficiency equivalent to combat operations.”¹ The analysis set forth in this report has shown that, although there are many success stories to report, DoD can improve its proficiency in HA/DR by implementing key lessons from its numerous past interventions in the Asia-Pacific region. This chapter highlights lessons identified² across our four case studies. Also, since the cases cover a wide range of contingencies in terms of the size of the disaster, the openness of the affected nation, and the extent of...

  15. APPENDIX Tracking PACOM AOR Militaries’ Capabilities for HA/DR
    (pp. 123-130)
  16. References
    (pp. 131-146)