Just as many departments and agencies are finally jumping on board the ICS bandwagon, it seems that it (or atleast some of its components) may be dying off. In particular, the concept of Unified Command and a single authoritative response message has been fading from the BP Oil Spill (er, I mean the Deepwater Horizon Event).
Perhaps the best perspective I’ve seen thus far is from Gerald Baron over at Crisis Blogger. His insights are aided by his closeness to the situation. He openly discloses in nearly all of his posts related to the incident that he is a crisis communications consultant working with/for BP. Even with this relationship, I think his opinions on the fate of the Incident Command System and the Joint Information Center (JIC) are unbiased and spot on.
The most informative post on the topic can be found here. Baron gives a good historical account of how ICS found its way into oil spills (response to the Exxon Valdez incident) and became a requirement by federal law. He then spends a good amount of time outlining the federal governments actions outside of that federal law and its implications for the future of JIC.
Essentially, as the federal government has waged a PR blame game with BP over the handling of the incident (an incident that they were cooperatively handling), they have destroyed the trust that ICS has built over the last 20 years. Obama’s actions set a precedent that every executive from here on will be watching for over their shoulder. Typically we would have to wait several years to see such effects, but just take a look at the Michigan oil spill response to see how quickly things have changed.
A big question to be answered is whether the Incident Command System can survive this attack on the JIC. The biggest question though is whether we can trust the information coming from the JIC if it does survive.