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Learning to See the Opportunities in Crisis and Catastrophe: A Decision Makers Guide to the Issue-Attention Cycle

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Emerging problems often surprise lawmakers and agency officials and result in rapid, reactive governance. The political attention an issue receives may or may not be sufficient to resolve the emergent problem and in many cases may be an over-reactive auto-response dictated by public opinion and issue salience. This thesis examines the emergence of congressional post-crisis attention and uses statistical analysis to demonstrate the primary characteristics that influence the emergence of attention pertaining to a crisis. Furthermore, this thesis has established a repeatable model whereby an emerging crisis can be evaluated by its characteristics to predict the likely reaction of government. This thesis uses quantitative methods to simplify the complexity posed by future crises in an effort to avoid sporadic governance. Recognition of the potential for reactiveness in decision making may be the key step to creating a culture of controlled, proactive agenda setting. The merits of this research transcend the organizational or political future of a single entity or specific stakeholder. Ideally, this work will provide an alternate method to observe and study the dynamics of emerging crises and episodic attention, providing an opportunity to analyze, comprehend, and then react differently.

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