Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. William W. Newmann


The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks redefined the federal approach to disaster planning. Prior to 9/11, disaster and emergency management meant preparedness for and response to natural and man-made emergencies such as floods, hurricanes, fires, and civil discord. The post-9/11 paradigm shift, a multi-pronged approach called "homeland security" strategy, now incorporates a multitude of man- and nature-made disasters to include border and transportation security; emergency preparedness, response and recovery against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats; as well as information analysis and infrastructure protection. These new priorities were communicated to the state and local governments. The purpose of this descriptive, cross-sectional study is two-fold: to analyze the post-9/11 federal homeland security (FHS) priorities' acceptance among the Virginia's local public emergency-management practitioners; and, explore the factors that explain the degree of adoption. The degree to which Virginia localities have adopted the FHS priorities is investigated through an opinion survey of Virginia's local practitioners. The survey is designed to shed light upon two key research questions: (1) Have the priorities of the new federal homeland security strategy been accepted as the local priorities? (2) Is population a factor whether or not the federal HS priorities were accepted? It is hypothesized that (1) localities have paralleled the federal government in expanding their approach to disaster management; and, that (2) larger localities (population greater than 50,000) have done so to a greater extent than the small ones (population up to 50,000). Each research hypothesis is tested through operationalization of five federal HS priorities. This study's survey instrument replicates California's August 2002 survey questionnaire, administered less than a year from the terrorist attacks. While California findings show local practitioner's acceptance of the federal priorities in general, crime and economic concerns reported to be the officials' top two concerns over the homeland security-related threats. This study also explores the probable theoretical explanation of the overall FHS priorities acceptance or lack thereof, by analyzing the two likely explanatory concepts: path dependence and bureaucratic management. It is hoped that operationalization of these explanatory models will facilitate the development of future surveys to allow for a greater understanding of local responses.The questionnaire was mailed to Virginia's all 141 local practitioners to collect their perceptions regarding the FHS strategy's five priorities: (1) homeland security as the primary mission for local emergency management; (2) increased level of HS-related planning and preparedness; (3) increased intergovernmental cooperation; (4) increased citizen participation; and, (5) increase in HS-related spending. The findings were used in evaluating: (a) the localities' acceptance of the federal priorities; and (b) localities' comparison based on the two populations groups: small (up to 50,000) and large (over 50,000). Because California's survey instrument was replicated to determine Virginia officials' perceptions, a comparison of Virginia and California officials' opinions was conducted to compare similarities and differences between the two states over a three-year gap. The overall findings of this study will help expand the existing knowledge concerning localities and homeland security. They will also help with policy decisions at state and local levels, particularly in matching homeland security needs with scarce federal resources. While the evolution of homeland security and emergency management policies before and after 9/11 suggest that path dependence and bureaucratic management played a critical role in persuading the localities to follow federal policies and guidelines, the survey questions do not directly answer why the new FHS priorities were accepted. Future researchers may benefit by modifying the existing survey instrument by adding a couple of questions to get at the "why" question more effectively. For example, practitioners may be asked the degree of their compliance to federal requirements.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008