NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA MONTEREY United States
The evolution of domestic disaster response within the United States has created a dissonance between the capabilities of response resources and public expectations. Resource shortages in a catastrophe will compel decision-makers in disaster response organizations at all levels of government to make difficult choices. Given Americas social contract, the ethical foundation for these choices should be common and consistent between the various actors. This research provides a primer on the abstracta philosophical and concreta practical issues impacting ethical choices about the allocation and distribution of food and water in response to a catastrophe. A single case study reviewing the Cascadia Subduction Zone provides a focused, threaded scenario to illustrate the interplay of the philosophical and practical issues. The research and application within the case study found that while the social contract creates both rights and expectations, government response cannot be assessed solely on the basis of quantifiable outcomes. The measure of effectiveness for response remains largely socially constructed due to the discursive framing by the various actors involved in disaster response. While a common ethical approach may be overly ambitious, this thesis recommends various procedural remedies to achieve greater consonance in ethical approaches.