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Governance Challenges, Crisis Management Exercises, and the Total Defense Concept: Lessons from Norway

Governance
Public Administration
Public Policy
Security
Decision Making
Tonje Grunnan
Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)
Monica Endregard
Norwegian Defence Research Establishment
Tonje Grunnan
Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

Abstract

In recent years, Norway has faced several crisis governance challenges caused by cyberattacks, natural disasters, and the Covid-19 pandemic. To deal with crises, the Norwegian Total Defense Concept is of key importance, a framework that emphasizes a whole-of-society approach to national defense and resilience through close cross-sectoral cooperation and pooling of all available resources. In building emergency preparedness and improving crisis response mechanisms, exercises constitute a central part of testing total defense plans through simulating crisis management. This article provides an analysis of Norway's experiences with crisis management exercises as a lens of the operationalization of the Total Defense Concept. Drawing on crisis management exercises from Norway, the article provides insights into the implementation of cross-sectoral Total Defense mechanisms in practice. It also discusses the challenges associated with these approaches, such as the need for strong leadership, effective communication, and the involvement of all relevant stakeholders. The article also identifies the need for ongoing investment and the difficulty of coordinating across different sectors and organizations. A large number of actors and mutual dependence between them embody the Norwegian Total Defense. The concept is characterized by a flatter structure than traditional public management/governance, as it is based on networks, cooperation, and coordination. This form of co-governance is not necessarily simple, and many challenges are referred to as wicked problems. In addition to crisis management exercises and the Total Defense Concept, Norway has also developed a robust system of civil protection and emergency preparedness. This system consists of several key principles, including the responsibility principle and the principle of coordination. These principles are critical for effective governance, have played a crucial role in Norway’s ability to respond to crises, and can provide insights into how other countries can improve their governance and crisis management efforts. The principles of responsibility and coordination are closely linked to the concept of governance, which refers to the process by which decisions are made and implemented within society. Effective governance requires clear roles and responsibilities, transparent decision-making processes, and strong coordination among stakeholders. In this article, we combine theories of policy processes with empirical data from crisis management exercises to understand the challenges of governance in crisis management by highlighting the complex nature of policy-making in the face of uncertainty and competing interests. By understanding the factors that influence policy-making, decision-makers can better anticipate and respond to challenges and develop more effective policies. Making real structural changes to governance requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying issues and structures that perpetuate governance challenges. While coordination and crisis management exercises are important, they alone may not be enough to bring about meaningful change. The article offers some possibilities for making real structural changes to governance and improvement of the implementation of the Total Defence Concept in particular. Overall, the article emphasizes the critical role, but also emerging challenges, that crisis management exercises and the Total Defense Concept play in promoting national resilience in the face of governance challenges and crises.