Published June 11, 2010
Oil spill disaster shows a lack of preparationTHE OLYMPIAN
The old "It's not what you know, it's who you know," adage has struck again. This time the example is out for the whole world to see. And it's not just in the federal government, it's at state level as well. Of course President Barack Obama is furious. He should be. This malfeasance, the appointing of department heads that have no tangible experience, occurred on his watch. Where is the change? Many complained about President George W. Bush appointing Mike Brown to direct the Federal Emergency Management Administration — an appointee who had no tangible experience running a program as important as FEMA. We all remember the disastrous results that occurred with Hurricane Katrina. But where is the similar outrage at the BP oil spill? I don’t know, but this has the potential to have more far-reaching effects than Hurricane Katrina ever could. Who is Obama’s Mike Brown on this BP disaster? Why do we not know? For example, when we look at budgetary shortfalls, let’s look at the division heads’ backgrounds and see who got where and how. We must determine whether these divisions are performing. If they are, great, full speed ahead. But if not, let’s look and see what transferable skills these agency managers brought to the position. How many are in positions of power because of whom they know, not what they know. Many times, the answer to this question is painfully obvious. If you are in charge of a business, but you do not possess any business acumen — finance, accounting, recognizing strategic partnerships or the like — well, as a popular comedian would say, “Here’s your sign.” But I digress. There is wisdom in surrounding yourself, your organization, your department, your division with the smartest people in the room. That’s why I look at medicine as paradigm of how government, business, organizations, departments should be structured. In medicine, it doesn’t matter whom you know. It’s what you know. That’s what you want in situations like this. For example, I was taught in the military as part of my training that it doesn’t matter how touchy feely a respiratory therapist is when they have to put your loved one on a ventilator. That goes out the window. The only thing that is of concern is that the medical professionals know what they are doing and when to do it. Period. That’s why we have people who knew what they were doing when it mattered most — those with continual training, who were prepared when the worst showed its face. Was I the nicest respiratory therapist? No. But I was prepared — prepared every day. Like all the respiratory therapists I worked with, we prided ourselves on this, and our bosses made sure we were well-prepared — with no equivocation. Prepared. What our president neglected to recognize in his responsibility to us American citizens was the lack of preparedness. He was not prepared. The commission overseeing offshore drilling was not prepared. The emergency response team for this disaster was not prepared. And now we are preparing possibly for the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Change we can believe in? Not anymore. Lucius Daye, a service-connected disabled veteran, is working on his MBA degree from Syracuse University. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, he can be reached at email@example.com.