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Organizing for Internal Security and Safety in Norway

Written By

Peter Lango, Lise H. Rykkja and Per Lægreid

Submitted: 26 October 2010 Published: 28 July 2011

DOI: 10.5772/18277

From the Edited Volume

Risk Management Trends

Edited by Giancarlo Nota

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1. Introduction

This chapter is partly based on Lango & Lægreid (2011).

Policy-making and political processes imply putting specific societal problems on the agenda, and establishing permanent public organizations to deal with the issue in a systematic and continuous way (Jacobsen, 1964). This chapter analyses the political processes and outcomes within the field of internal security and safety in Norway, examining the development over the last 20 years. We focus on policies and specific crises that have led to changes in procedures as well as organization. We are interested in the question of coordination between public organizations, and more particularly the coordination between the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and other governmental bodies responsible for internal security and safety.

Even though governments work continuously to assess and reduce risks and vulnerabilities, experiences from major disasters and crises have shown that unthinkable and unmanageable situations and crises do occur. They range from completely new and unforeseen crises, to risks that have been anticipated, but not properly assessed. These situations, which cut across administrative levels (central-local government), policy sectors and ministerial responsibility areas, can be defined as wicked issues (Harmon & Mayer, 1986). Such complex and fragmented issues do not necessarily fit into the established functional structures and traditional divisions between line ministries, underlying agencies and levels of government. Furthermore, central actors may lack the competence, resources or organizational framework to handle such extreme situations.

This chapter addresses the reorganization of this policy area in Norway over the last 20 years, a period influenced by the end of the Cold War and the realization of new threats related to severe shocks such as the 9/11 terror attack and the tsunami in South-East Asia. Also, domestic polity features, administrative tradition and culture, pre-established routines and an active governmental administrative policy will be taken into account.

A central argument is that risk and crisis management challenges are typically found in the space between policy areas and administrative levels. The policy field of crisis management, internal security and safety typically crosses administrative levels sectors and ministerial areas, creating difficulties for those involved in preparing and securing safety.

The end of the Cold War changed dominant perceptions of risk and threats in many ways, from an attention to Communism and conventional war, to other types of threats such as natural disasters or failures in advanced technological installations (Perrow, 2007; Beck, 1992). Central authorities were forced to redefine their understanding and the content of internal security and safety. A new conception concerned the dividing line between the civil and military defence. In the case of Norway, it included the introduction of new principles for organization, accountability and coordination (Serigstad, 2003).

From the early 1990s to the 2000s, several government initiated commissions emphasized the need for a stronger and better coordination within the field in Norway (St.meld. (1992–1993); NOU 2000: 24; NOU 2006: 6). The Buvik Commission (1992), the Vulnerability Commission (2000), and the Infrastructure Commission (2006) proposed a radical reorganization, including the establishment of a new and separate Ministry for internal security, and a new Preparedness Act. However, many of the proposals were, as we shall demonstrate, not followed through.

Internal security in Norway is characterized by an extensive division of responsibility. Proposals for an authoritative and superior coordinating authority has not been carried through. Thus, the field is frequently described as fragmented (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006; Christensen & Lægreid, 2008). The Commission reports and Government White Papers over the last years leave no doubt that problems related to the fragmentation and lack of coordination is realized by central government and coordinating bodies. Still, there is considerable disagreement on how to solve these problems. Policy proposals have not been transposed into new organizational or comprehensive legal arrangements. At the same time, Norway has been sheltered from large disasters and catastrophes. Combined with the immanent uncertainty of risk management, this policy field is particularly challenging, not the least considering a continuous fight for policy attention and priority.

Focussing on problems of accountability, coordination and specialization within the field of internal security and safety and the reorganization processes in central government is interesting for several reasons. New organizational forms exceedingly confront existing ones as society faces new challenges. New Public Management-based reforms of the 1980s and 1990s encouraging decentralization and structural devolution have increasingly been supplemented by arrangements that emphasize the need for more coordination across sectors and levels, labelled post-NPM, Whole of Government or Joined Up Government (Bogdanor, 2005; Christensen & Lægreid, 2007; Bouckaert, Peters & Verhoest, 2010). At the same time, the awareness of threat related to natural disasters, pandemics and terrorism seems to have increased. This has made the field of internal security an increasingly relevant topic (Christensen et al., 2011).

The data in this paper is based on content analysis of central policy documents, mainly commission reports, government white papers, formal letters of assignment, parliamentary debates and documents, and supervisory reports. Also, a range of qualitative interviews (about 38) with central actors, politicians, commission members and senior civil servants have been carried out. Data collection and analysis was done by participants in the research project “Multilevel Governance and Civil Protection – the tension between sector and territorial specialization”. The project was financed by the Norwegian Research Council from 2006–2010. For a more in-depth description of the data base, see Fimreite et al. (2011).

The chapter proceeds in four parts. Firstly, we present our theoretical approach. Next, we lay out central contextual factors, and present crucial principles and organizational arrangements. Thirdly, we describe important developments and central milestones in the efforts to reform the Norwegian internal security and safety policy field over the last 20 years. Then, we analyze and explain the reform process. The chapter closes with a concluding section discussing findings and implications.


2. A transformative theoretical approach

It is impossible to predict and map the probability of all accidents and crises. However, both public and private organizations are frequently faced with a demand to do just that. This means that governments have to handle both uncertainties and risks. Beck (1992) argues that there is an increased perception of a lack of safety in modern societies, related to the development of a risk society. In this perspective, advances in technology will potentially lead to disasters of great magnitude. A corresponding increased awareness of such catastrophic events will create even more challenges for responsible authorities. As people become more aware of risks and adverse consequences, the perceived level of risk will rise. Failure to manage risks might generate a potential for an even wider crisis. (Smith, 2006).

A general theory on how and why crises happen, and how they best can be managed does not exist. However, the work of for instance Perrow (Natural Accident Theory) (Perrow, 1984) and La Porte (High Reliability Theory) (La Porte, 1996) are highly valued and have been widely discussed. In different ways they try to to explain how crises arise and might be avoided. In many cases, a crisis can be traced back to organizational failure or poor risk management. Our theoretical point of departure is that different types of coordination and specialization will have important consequences for actors within public bodies, for the public bodies themselves, and for the policy field affected (March & Olsen, 1989; Egeberg, 2003; Egeberg, 2004). We argue that the organizational lay-out of the internal security and safety field is of crucial importance to risk management (Fimreite et al., 2011). Organizational forms affect which issues get attention and which are ignored, how the issues are grouped together and how they are separated. Organizational arrangements will therefore have vital importance for risk management. Furthermore, external pressures, developments and shocks (crises), may well be influential and result in new perceptions, and organizational or procedural changes.

Following this argument, organizational structure and operation can neither be viewed merely as a response to externally motivated influences and shocks, nor merely as a result of deliberate political choices. The organization of public administration, the relationship between the state and local level and between different sectors is not a mere technincal-neutral question. Organizations, seen as institutions, have an autonomous and influential authority based in established structures, rules, procedures, culture, traditions and dynamics (Olsen, 2010). Public authorities are characterized by a complex interaction, between political and administrative steering, design, negotiation, diverse interests, cultural bindings, and adaption to external pressures and influences (Christensen et al., 2004). In order to fully understand the content of public politics and policies, we need to analyze organizational structures and organizations as well as policy content. The scope of action and notions of approriate behavior for civil servants is affected by organizational affiliation. This also affects the content of policies (March & Olsen, 2006). The understanding of problems, instruments, consequences and behavioural patterns are affected by internal features of an organization, and the relationships and connections to other organizations. Based on this, we assume that different forms of specialization and coordination are decisive for organizational behaviour as well as policy outcomes (Fimreite, Lægreid & Rykkja, 2011).

In order to explain the development of the internal security field in Norway, we adopt a transformative approach, combining an instrumental and institutional perspective on public policy reform (Christensen & Lægreid, 2007). The organizations within the field are not merely seen as instruments, but as institutional actors that not necessarily will adapt to new signals from political executives or to shifting demands in the environment (March & Olsen, 1983). The institutional dynamics of reforms can best be interpreted as a complex mixture of environmental pressure, polity features and historical institutional context.

The instrumental perspective directs our attention towards formal arrangements, while the institutional perspective focuses on informal norms, values and practices that have developed over time. Informal social roles are seen as impersonal, they exist independently of people within the organizations at any given point of time (Christensen & Lægreid, 2002). The institutional perspective takes as a starting point that organizations are carriers of values, and have a distinct identity (Selznick, 1957).

The instrumental perspective perceives organizations as disposable tools for the leaders involved. Within this perspective, rationality is related to the formal organizational structures, and creates limitations on actors’ options. The institutional perspective, on the other hand, opens up for a perception where organizations incorporate routines, rules and values that independently influence actors and their behaviour.

Within an instrumental perspective, the underlying behavioural logic is a logic of consequence, based on rational actors that are assumed to be able to accurately predict consequences of choices, and find the means to reach their goals. Change is perceived as rational adaption to new goals or changing external demands. The concept of rationality has been modified somewhat by Simon (1976), who launched the concept of bounded rationality. This concept emphasizes limitations to the abilities to account for all possible choices and outcomes.

Within the instrumental perspective we distinguish between a hierarchically oriented variant, where the leaders’ control and analytical-rational calculation is central, and a negotiation-based variant, which allows for the articulation of interests and for compromise and negotiation between organizations and actors whose goals and interests are partially conflicting (Christensen et al., 2004). An institutional perspective is, on the other hand, based on a logic of appropriateness (March & Olsen, 1989). Here, human action is driven by rules of appropriate or exemplary behaviour, organized into institutions. This implies that action is based on experience, and on what is perceived as reasonable and acceptable within the specific context. Goals and means are discovered, explored and developed within the specific organization, and can be interpreted differently from formally established goals and ends. Thus, intrinsic organizational values may obstruct fundamental change. Organizations are seen more robust and change is usually incremental. Moderate changes will meet less resistance than major reforms. Frequent and extensive changes will generate extensive transaction costs, referred to as historical inefficiency (Ibid.). However, the possibilities for change are greater if reform proposals are in accordance with the existing organizational traditions and established culture (Brunsson & Olsen, 1993). These processes can be understood as path dependent, where former choices constrain later options (Krasner, 1988).

A third perspective sees organizational structures mainly as a response to external pressures (Olsen, 1992; DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Meyer & Rowan, 1977). This implies adaptation to established norms, beliefs and prevailing doctrines within a wider community, the incorporation of NPM values being one relevant example. It may also imply adaptation to a changing technical environment or to challenges and vulnerabilities created or revealed by external shocks and/or crises.

We use these theoretical perspectives in a supplementary manner (Roness, 1997), and argue that the organizational processes within the field of internal security and safety can neither be viewed one-sidedly as a result of instrumental processes and leader strategies, nor merely as a product of history, existent informal norms, or adaption to external pressure. Processes of policy formation and change are characterized by complex interaction between different factors. This is vital when one wants to understand the organization and development of risk management.


3. Context

3.1. Ministerial responsibility, strong line ministries and autonomous municipalities

Individual ministerial responsibility is a core concept within the Norwegian central government. The Minister, as head of a given Ministry, bears the ultimate responsibility for actions within that Ministry, including those of subordinate agencies. Ministerial responsibility in the Norwegian case implies strong sector ministries and a strong vertical coordination, resulting in a corresponding weaker horizontal coordination between policy areas and sectors (Christensen & Lægreid, 1998). Specialization by sector or purpose/tasks is a dominant principle, making it difficult to establish coordinative arrangements across traditional sectors. Consequently, sector ministries have been substantially stronger than ministries responsible for sector-crossing activities and coordination. This indicates that ministries operate as separate ‘silos’ with limited ability to apprehend cross-cutting policy issues (Bouckaert, Ormond & Peters, 2000).

Another central feature of the Norwegian polity is the concept of local self government. Local democracy and authority is a relatively strong value (Fimreite et al., 2002; Flo, 2004). Following the expansion of the welfare state after World War II, local authorities became responsible for providing a broad range of services. Greater municipal responsibility also meant a closer integration across government levels, and, at least until 1992, a sectorized organization mirroring central government institutions (Tranvik & Fimreite, 2006). A series of reforms aimed at municipal devolution was implemented from the 1980s and culminated with the Municipal Act of 1992. The new legislation aimed at joined-up (non-sectoral) government structures at the municipal level in order to counter the strong sectorization of Norwegian public government and the centralizing forces that allegedly reduced local government autonomy. Whether or not the reforms succeeded, is still debated (Ibid.)

3.2. Internal security and safety

The attention towards internal security and safety is quite new, both in academia and politics. The concept covers terms like ‘domestic security’, ‘civil defence’, ‘homeland security’, ‘societal security’ and ‘civil emergency’ (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006), and has gained currency since the beginning of the 1990s – even more so the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 (Kettl, 2004).

At present, there exists no agreed-on international definition. The term ‘societal security’ (samfunnssikkerhet) is a specific Norwegian term. It is a rather broad concept, and does not differentiate between safety and security, or between natural disasters beyond human control and conscious destructive acts (Burgess & Mouhleg, 2007). Thus, it straddles the rather blurred boundary between civil society and internal affairs on the one hand, and the military and defence sector on the other. According to Olsen et al. (2007, pp. 71), a viable definition of the concept of ‘societal security’ could be “The society’s ability to maintain critical social functions, to protect the life and health of the citizens and to meet the citizens’ basic requirements in a variety of stress situations”. It comprises all categories of actions intended to hinder unwanted events or conditions and to reduce the consequences should these occur, covering both preventive and proactive actions pursued in order to reduce adverse effects (St.meld nr. 17 (2001–2002), pp. 3). This covers both extraordinary events (e.g. hurricanes, terrorism, etc.) and more ‘ordinary’ events (e.g. traffic accidents, fires, etc.), and includes both internal security and civil protection and safety. It further communicates that national security is more than military defence and border control, and thus finds outlet for the Norwegian conception of ‘total defence’ (Serigstad, 2003).

In this chapter, we have settled on the term ‘internal security and safety’. This has mainly a practical reasonIt is a conception that is more common and easily accessible for the international reader. By focussing on both security and safety, we emphasize that the outlook is not delimited to mere security issues, or to mere safety issues. Although the typical Norwegian approach covers both extraordinary and more ‘ordinary’ accidents, we will focus more on the importance of extraordinary events and risks.

Inherent in this definition, and in our focus, is an explicit attention to the question of how government manages risk. At its heart, the policy field of internal security and safety concerns risk management and ‘the politics of uncertainty’ (Power, 2004). The problem both public and private organizations face, is that of responding to both anticipated and unanticipated risks. A particular difficult question is how to prepare for low-probability and high-impact events (Baldwin & Cave, 1999). Organizations and organizational arrangements play a crucial role in the prevention of and response to risk (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006, pp. 1379). Within this framework, reorganization can also be seen as means for managing risk.

3.3. Central principles: liability, decentralization and conformity

In Norway, three crucial principles for internal security and safety guide authorities involved in risk and crisis management. These are a principle of liability, a principle of decentralization and a principle of conformity (St.meld. (2007–2008)).

The liability principle implies that every ministry and authority has responsibility for internal security and safety within its own sector. It is closely related to the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility, emphasizing strong sector ministries. According to our empirical material, this has made the Ministry of Justice’s responsibility for horizontal coordination more difficult. Furthermore, the principle of liability is modified by extensive civil-military cooperation with the Ministry of Defence and its subordinate bodies.

The decentralization (or subsidiarity) principle emphasizes that a crisis should be managed at the lowest operational level possible. This corresponds to the dominant doctrine of local self-government and authority. Consequently, the County governors and municipalities are given an important function in risk assessment and crisis management. At the regional level, the County governors operate as mediators between sector interests as well as state and local level administration (Rykkja, 2011). Traditionally, the Norwegian municipalities have enjoyed widespread autonomy within the field of civil protection. Territory, or geography, is therefore an important additional organizing concept Herein lays an important (organizational) paradox: the principle of liability implies strong coordination within specific sectors, but weak coordination across them. The decentralization principle, on the other hand, implies strong coordination across sectors on a low level and hence less coordination between horizontal levels of government.

The principle of conformity (or similarity) stresses that the organization forms under a crisis or a crisis-like situation should be as similar to the daily organizational forms as possible. This can be particularly difficult to maintain during an ‘extraordinary’ crisis. As current literature on crisis management emphasizes, when a major disaster happens, the necessity of supplementing existing formal organizations with improvisation and temporary organizations becomes crucial (Czarniawska, 2009).

These three principles comprise a central fundament for the organization of internal security and safety in Norway. Nevertheless, several small organizational and policy changes beyond these principles have taken place over the last years. This is the topic of the following sections.


4. The reform process: Reorganization of the central administration for security and safety

4.1. From the Cold War to a ‘vulnerable society’

In 1946, a government appointed defence commission established the concept of ‘total defence’. This implied an integration of the Norwegian military and civil defence, with a primary task to protect Norwegian territory, citizens, national values and sovereignty. At the time, the orientation of the ‘total defence’ was mainly towards the threat of war, not crises or more delimited accidents (Serigstad, 2003). However, changes in the perception of threats and risks in the public sphere gradually led to the adaption of existing arrangements to encompass solutions that were more suitable to a new situation. The end of the Cold War created a new situation for both the military and the civil defence. Without a unitary and stable enemy, assessing risks and threats became more complex. This resulted in the adoption of a broader concept, embraced by both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence. ‘Total defence’ came to imply mutual support and cooperation between the military services and the civil society, covering war-like situations as well as more delimited crises affecting the civil society. Today, it involves both contingency planning and more operative matters in all types of crises (Høydal, 2007).

Internal security and safety was first conceptualized in a government White Paper presented by the Ministry of Justice in 1993 (St.meld. (1992-1993)), and further recognized by the Vulnerability Commission in 2000 (NOU 2000: 24). With these statements, the Government signalized a broader definition of the field, with less emphasis on the military dimension and more on the civil dimension and on crises that arise in peace-time (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006; Olsen et al., 2007). This new conceptualization implied a transfer of responsibilities from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Justice.

Internal security and safety is a relatively new task for the Ministry of Justice. The construction of a Norwegian Civil defence started after the experiences from World War II. In 1970, a Directorate for Civil Protection was set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. At the same time, a corresponding preparedness office within the Ministry was created. Over time, there have been several attempts to strengthen the Ministry of Justices’ coordinating role (Høydal, 2007).

The White Paper presented in 1993 (St.meld. (1992–1993)) clearly articulated a need for a coordinating ministry. However, the principle of responsibility was not abandoned. Ultimately, responsibility was to be placed with whichever ministry had the administrative and sector responsibility, depending on the type of crisis. Constitutional ministerial responsibility would still lie with the relevant Minister. Nevertheless, the interest of assigning the over-arching responsibility to a single ministry was strong. The coordinating ministry would take cooperative initiatives on behalf of other involved ministries in order to ensure better coordination of resources in both peace and war.

Several candidate ministries were envisaged having a coordinative role. The Prime Ministers Office and the Ministry of Justice were the most prominent (Høydal, 2007). The Buvik Commission (1992) recommended a leading role for the Ministry of Justice, and this was supported by the government. A central argument was that the Ministry of Justice already was responsible for the Directorate for Civil Protection and Civil Defence, and for the Police and rescue services (St.meld. (1992–1993)). In 1994, the Ministry was formally assigned the task to coordinate civil preparedness across sectors (Serigstad, 2003).

4.2. The Vulnerability Commission and the Ministry of Justices’ responsibility for coordination

In 1999, the Ministry of Justice initiated a project with a vision to enhance the attention to the area of internal security and safety. This led to the establishment of a public commission led by a former distinguished politician and Prime Minister, Kåre Willoch. The Commission on the Vulnerability of Society (also called the Vulnerability Commission) presented a broad range of proposals in order to improve efforts to reduce vulnerability and ensure safety, security and civil protection for the Norwegian society (Serigstad, 2003; Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006; NOU 2000: 24).

The Commission identified several problems concerning civil defence and internal security. One of its central conclusions was that the policy area was highly fragmented, lacked superior organizing principles, and was to a large extent organized in an ad hoc manner, responding to specific crises or accidents (Høydal, 2007). Allegedly, this resulted in ambiguity and serious liability concerns. A central argument was that the Ministry of Justice did not execute its superior and coordinative functions within the area very well. Civil protection and crisis management was mainly executed by a small unit with limited resources, and was not adequately prioritized. Overall, internal security and safety was seen as a policy area that had been systematically under-prioritized for quite a while. Furthermore, the Ministry’s coordinative responsibilities were vaguely defined, and therefore largely ignored by other relevant ministries and departments.

The Vulnerability Commission concluded by advocating a higher concentration of responsibility, competence and resources, in order to give the area a stronger political foothold and ensure better coordination. One central recommendation was to establish a new Ministry for Internal Security and Safety, incorporating responsibility for assessing national threats and vulnerabilities, establishing main goals and standards within the field, coordinate efforts to handle terrorism and sabotage, as well as existing emergency departments and the civil defence. This implied a total restructuring of the Ministry of Justice, and a transfer of central administrative responsibilities from other sectors in order to ensure a stronger and more autonomous role for the new ministry.

The Commission report was followed by public hearing and a government White Paper on the Safety and Security of Society (St.meld. (2001–2002)). The decision-making process prior to the White Paper was characterized by defensive institutional arguments and major conflicts of interest, especially between the justice and defence/military sector (Serigstad, 2003). The hearing did not provide any major changes to the original proposal. In the middle of this process came 9/11, and the following organizational changes in the US administration for Homeland Security. The situation led to a delay and reassessment of the Commission’s work, but in the end it did not have any major impact on its conclusions (Ibid.).

The proposal to establish a new Ministry for Internal Security and Safety turned out too controversial. Instead, the White Paper proposed a further strengthening of existing structures, by merging existing units and agencies, and by establishing new ones. Consequently, the proposals confirmed existing principles and doctrines of public organization and management within the field. The existing principles of liability, decentralization and conformity were maintained. The result is a rather ambiguous and hybrid organizational model (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006).

The White Paper proposed the reorganization of several existing agencies and the following establishment of two (partly) new agencies; the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB), and the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) (St.meld. (2001–2002)). DSB was organized as an agency under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. It supports the Ministry’s coordinative activities within the field, and consists of the former Directorate for Civil Protection and the former Directorate for Fire and Electrical Safety Inspection. DSB is responsible for overall emergency planning and crisis management, providing information and advice as well as supervising responsible ministries, county governors and municipalities.

The National Security Authority (NSM) is responsible for protective supervision and the security of vital national interests, primarily countering threats of espionage, sabotage and acts of terrorism (NOU 2006: 6, Act of 20 March 1998 on Protective Security Services). Initially, the Vulnerability Commission wanted to establish NSM as an agency under the proposed new Ministry. This would mean a transfer of the agency from the Ministry of Defence. This resulted in a conflict of interest between the two Ministries involved, and between the two corresponding parliamentary committees.

On one side, the Ministry of Justice and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice argued for a broader definition of the field and the inclusion of civil protection and safety within its realms. On the other side, the Ministry of Defence and the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defence wanted to keep a focus on (military) security issues, and therefore also retain the administrative responsibility for NSM. The solution was a compromise. NSM was administratively placed under the responsibility for the Ministry of Defence, but would also report to the Ministry of Justice in matters concerning civil protection (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006).

The developments within the field illustrates how difficult it can be to restructure established arrangements, and transfer responsibility between ministries, even in situations where existing problems are recognized. The Norwegian case exposed a fundamental conflict concerning the framing of the field. Should internal security and safety be defined as a responsibility alongside many other equally important tasks, or should it rather be defined as a particular policy field, characterized by distinct and more vital problems and challenges? Was this mainly a security issue, and therefore a military defence matter, or was it rather a safety issue, and therfore a problem concerning civil protection and defence? Discussions on the degree of integration between civil and military protection and defence, and safety and security issues, continued. In the end, the White Paper was discussed jointly by the two Parliamentary committees. This indicates a shift towards safety and civil protection, since earlier these issues were mainly discussed in the Standing Committee for Defence alone.

The basic conflicts and challenges portrayed here have had significant consequences for the perception of relevant problems, policy solutions, of relevant actors and participants in the process. The process can be perceived not only as a clear-cut decision-making process, but also as a process of meaning-making, concerning the definition, interpretation and development of a common understanding, and as a process of constructing a certain political reality and negotiation ground for those best suited to implement the tasks at hand (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993; Rochefort & Cobb, 1994; Kettl, 2004).

4.3. The Cabinet Crisis Council and the Crisis Support Group

The same reluctance to establish a stronger coordinative and authoritative role for the Ministry of Justice through more permanent organizational arrangements can be observed when analyzing the processes leading to the establishment of a Cabinet Crisis Council and a Crisis Support Group in 2006. The Indian Ocean earthquake and the following tsunami on Boxing day in South-East Asia in 2004 were crucial for the establishment of these organizations.

Although the tsunami disaster hit abroad, it had important consequences for Norway. At the time, about 4000 Norwegian citizens were in the area. Most of them were on vacation. 84 Norwegian citizens were killed. Because it happened abroad, and following from the established principle of liability, the situation was handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the Ministry was not very well prepared for a situation like this, and was quickly criticized for their efforts to coordinate activities and responses, both within the Ministry itself and across other involved ministries (Brygård, 2006; Jaffery & Lango, 2011).

After the tsunami, the Government presented a White Paper on Central Crisis Management, referring directly to the tsunami disaster (St.meld. (2004–2005)). It continued the discussion concerning the demarcation and responsibility lines between the different ministries, authorities and administrative levels involved in the crisis, and presented several measures to improve coordination and crisis management at central governmental level. This included an effort to clarify responsibilities for crisis management. More importantly, in a crisis the lead was to be placed with the Ministry mostly affected. The intention was to stall potential conflicts of competence and responsibility one had experienced on earlier occasions. This principle further emphasized the principle of liability.

The White Paper also proposed the establishment of a Cabinet Crisis Council, and a strengthening of the administrative support through the setting up of a Crisis Support Group. The initial proposal was to organize the Cabinet Crisis Council permanently to the Prime Minister’s Office. However, this was turned down, and the result was a more ad hoc organization. If and when a complex crisis that demands coordination at Ministerial level hits, any affected Ministry may summon the Council. It consists of the Permanent Secretary’s from the Prime Ministers Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When summoned, the Council functions as the superior administrative coordinating body, and is responsible for coordinating measures across the relevant ministries. However, the constitutional and ministerial responsibility still rests within each Ministry.

The Crisis Support Group may be called upon in certain demanding crisis situations by the leading Ministry. It is formally organized under the Ministry of Justice, but can be called upon by any responsible Ministry and be expanded upon need. It is mainly an administrative resource supporting whichever Ministry takes the lead. The establishment of such a group was originally proposed by the Vulnerability Commission, but not followed through until a larger crisis hits Norway, then.

Corresponding to earlier policy documents within the field, the White Paper following the tsunami disaster emphasised the importance of the Ministry of Justice’s leading role in crisis situations. However, the principle of liability was not to be altered. A consequence may be an even more fragmented organization, whereas the Cabinet Crisis Councils functions may counteract the recently established leading role for the Ministry of Justice in certain exceptionally demanding disasters.

4.4. The Infrastructure Commission

A few months before the tsunami disaster hit, the Norwegian government set up a public commission to report on the security of critical infrastructure. This resulted in a report on the ‘Protection of critical infrastructures and critical societal functions in Norway (NOU 2006: 6). Four issues were central: A discussion concerning the extent of public ownership, a discussion on the coordinative role of the Ministry of Justice, a proposal for a statutory obligation for preparedness in local authorities, and a proposal for a new, overarching and sector-crossing Preparedness Act.

The commission presented several proposals concerning the Ministry of Justice’s coordinative role, from having a superior yet advisory role, taking initiative and organizing collaboration and information, to being a national junction and reference point in crises that demanded international operations. Further, it argued for better coordination of relevant agencies (NSM, DSB and the Police Security Service, PST). However, the proposal of establishing a new and more authoritative Ministry for internal security and civil safety launched by the Vulnerability Commission was not followed up.

The argument for a new Preparedness Act was that it would secure the integration of risk and vulnerability analysis, operational and supply safety, preparedness planning, information sharing, cooperation control and sanctions against both businesses and public authorities responsible for critical infrastructure (Bjørgum, 2010; NOU 2006: 6). The commission argued that this new legislation would give the Ministry of Justice stronger coordination powers. Nevertheless, the report did not provide a detailed review of existing legislation. The result was more a call for attention on the question, and it did not present any draft legislation. It was implicit that more research and analysis was needed before a new law could be enacted.

The Commission report was followed by a new White Paper (St.meld. (2007–2008)). Here, the coordinative role of the Ministry of Justice was defined as a responsibility for securing a general and coordinated preparedness. A sectoral approach to relevant agencies, County governors and Joint Rescue Coordination Centres across the country was emphasized. Hence, no radical reforms were proposed. The proposal to establish a new Preparedness Act was not followed up, although the White Paper recommended a more detailed examination of existing legislation in order to determine relevant priorities and problem areas. The most significant proposal was the establishment of a statutory obligation for local authorities to provide adequate preparedness. This was implemented when a revised Civil Defence Act was adopted in 2010.

4.5. Critique from the Office of the Auditor General

In 2008, the Norwegian Office of the Auditor General presented a report on the Ministry of Justice’s coordination responsibility within the field of internal safety and security (Riksrevisjonen, 2008). The report was rather critical. A central finding was that several responsible Ministries did not perform adequate risk and vulnerability analyses, and thus did not prioritize risk management. It also pointed out failings in the Ministry of Justice’s audit of other ministries, and in its dialogue with them. Adequate coordination would demand the Ministry to take a more active and deliberate role towards its coordinative responsibilities within the field. The other Ministries found the coordinative responsibility of the Ministry of Justice to be unclear. A main conclusion was that, despite evident changes within the field, important challenges concerning accountability and coordination remained.

The Ministry’s response to this critique was to establish a Ministries’ Coordination Consulting Group for internal security and safety. This is a common inter-ministerial arena for exchange of information and experiences, and for the discussion of general rules concerning preparedness. The arrangement followed the existing organizational policy, with rather weak network arrangements that do not threat the power of line ministries.

The same findings pointing to an apparent lack of coordination can be found in the Office of the Auditors Generals report on goal achievements and efficiency in the County governors’ offices (Riksrevisjonen, 2007). The County governors have important coordinative responsibilities at regional level, and are responsible for preparedness, risk and crisis management within their region (Rykkja 2011). The report from 2007 pointed out that risk and crisis management was largely under-prioritized. Furthermore, there existed certain ambiguities concerning the County governors’ coordinating role, and that the coordination vis-à-vis municipalities and other state authorities within the region was characterized as rather ineffective.

4.6. Summing up the reform process – a reluctant reformer

The most important changes in the Norwegian policy for internal security and safety since the Cold War, have been the introduction of the three central steering principles (the principle of liability, decentralization and conformity), a development and clarification of the Ministry of Justices’ authority and coordination responsibilities, and the establishment of new directorates, agencies and more ad hoc organizational arrangements under the Ministry. This includes the Cabinet Crisis Council and the Crisis Support Group. Furthermore, responsibilities between central and local government have been spelled out more clearly through the establishment of a municipal preparedness duty.

Our analysis reveals that the principles of ministerial superiority and autonomous local government have set distinct limitations on legislative and organizational proposals, on how they are formed, followed up on, and carried through. In general, established organizational forms are strengthened, resulting in a somewhat cautious adaptation to a new situation following the end of the Cold War. Although it took a very long time to realize, the establishment of a statutory obligation for preparedness within the local authorities indicates that the principle of autonomous local government may be easier to shift than the principle of ministerial superiority securing strong sector hegemony.

A central tension has been the relationship between the military and civil sector (Serigstad, 2003; Dyndal, 2010). The concept of ‘total defence’ signalized increased focus on civil issues. Over the years we see a shift from the military towards the civil sector and issues concerning internal security and safety (NOU 2006: 6). This has resulted in new relations between the military and the civil sector. An example is the establishment of the National Security Authority (NSM), subordinate to the Ministry of Justice in matters of civil concerns, and subordinate to the Ministry of Defence in matters of military concern. This joint arrangement may result in tensions between ministries, concerning allocation of resources, establishment of central goals and priorities, and adequate steering and adequate steering.

In the same period, there has been an effort to strengthen coordinating authorities within the field through the clarification the responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice, the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB), the National Security Authority (NSM), the County governors and the municipalities. However, our analysis reveals that the principle of liability has not been surrendered, and still stands strong. This continues to create tensions between organizational units, sectors and administrative levels. An indication of the complex relationship is that the different ministries are required to perform internal control and system audit within their respective sectors, while at the same time the Ministry of Justice and DSB audits the individual ministries. Høydal (2007) reports that it is especially difficult to get this arrangement to work.

Experiences with certain crises have revealed that the responsible authorities are not always well prepared. This is also documented in the general literature on disasters and crisis management (Fimreite et al., 2011). A particular relevant example in our case is the handling of the tsunami disaster in South East Asia in 2004. This crisis revealed serious challenges related to the coordination and specialization between responsible ministries (Jaffery & Lango, 2011).

Organizational changes after the Cold War have been rather discrete. Parallel processes have been influential, and major proposals have been countered by strong sector interests. The experiences after the tsunami led to some reorganization in the central administration, but not to the establishment of completely new arrangements. This seems to follow a rather common pattern, where Norway has been labelled a reluctant reformer compared to other countries (Christensen & Lægreid, 2007). Other events, such as the Mad Cow Disease (BSE), also led to changes that to a large extent followed existing lines of responsibilities (Rykkja, 2008).

Our analysis shows that coordination and strengthening of central government in this policy area seems difficult, mainly due to strong line ministries with different interests, and also influenced by a strong preference of decentralized solutions following the doctrine of local self government. The government is reluctant to build up strong permanent core organizations in central government, with adequate capacity and resources, within this policy field. The Ministry of Justice remains the central coordinating body, but is still characterized as rather weak. Attempts to build a strong overarching coordinating ministry failed, largely due to the strength of the principle of ministerial responsibility. Crises have not resulted in radical changes. Instead, our analysis reveals incremental processes.


5. Understanding processes and outcomes

In accordance with an instrumental perspective, the development of a new coordination policy for internal security and safety can be seen as a process of deliberate and strategic choices following an interest in strengthening the Ministry of Justices’ coordinating functions. In this perspective, policy-making and reorganization are important tools, utilized to improve practices and results within the field. However, the process exhibits examples of bounded rationality, and local rationality seems linked to the relevant organizations’ apprehension of problems and solutions (Cyert & March, 1963). Changes in practices can partly be seen as relevant measures for ensuring the unity of the policy field and a strengthening of horizontal coordination. Our study has nevertheless shown that conflicts of interests between central actors have limited horizontal coordination and the development of a coherent coordination policy.

Institutionalized opinions and the persistence of institutions are central elements in an institutional perspective (Krasner, 1988). Our research reveals that the institutionalized tradition of ministerial responsibility continues to stand strong within the Norwegian polity, limiting the efforts to strengthen horizontal coordination. The processes can well be seen as a result of path dependency, that at least partly may explain why the changes within the field are incremental. This points to processes where former routines and established practices lead to selective and inconsistent attention to new problems (Cyert & March, 1963).

The end of the Cold War represents an important contextual factor that might explain the gradual shift from a military focus to a stronger attention to civil protection and safety. It may also be regarded as a manifestation of historical inefficiency, where old organization patterns and understandings still linger and hinder major reforms and reorganizations, despite obvious changes in the context (March & Olsen, 1989).

The events of 9/11 2001 happened at the same time as the Norwegian Vulnerability Commission worked with their report, and was definitely an external shock with important consequences for the American government (Kettl, 2004). However, we find little evidence that it had a decisive influence on the Norwegian reorganization process. The White Paper was put on hold for a while, but no radical proposals were put forward (St.meld. (2001–2002)). Furthermore, many of the proposals of the Vulnerability Commission were not followed up. The incidents of 9/11 led to changes in terror legislation in many countries, including Norway (Meyer, 2009; Rykkja, Fimreite & Lægreid, 2011). The Norwegian government was obviously aware of a new kind of threat after 9/11, but it does not seem that the organizational changes and establishment of Department of Homeland Security in the US (described as the largest reorganization in the American central administration in newer history) had any major impact.

The tsunami disaster in 2004 seems to have had a stronger direct impact on the reorganization processes. It hit Norwegian citizens more directly, and also created notable difficulties for the responsible authorities. Problems related to ambiguous responsibility lines and competences, and a corresponding lack of coordination between relevant ministries was revealed. This promoted the enactment of organizational changes within the central administration (the Cabinet Crisis Council and the Crisis Support Group).

To some extent, Norway represents a special case, whereas it has largely been spared direct encounters with path-breaking and devastating disasters. The reform processes in the Norwegian approach to internal security and safety resulted in a reorganization of agencies reaffirming a network based model (Lægreid & Serigstad, 2006). Our study reveals a process and a policy field characterized by complex interactions between mutually influential factors. Rather than holding different explanatory factors up against each other as competing or alternative, we argue that they complement each other. External shocks and incidents have had an impact, but changes within the field do not always follow predictable patterns. Individual choices and behaviour can, at least to some extent, be determined by examining characteristics and changes in the organizations’ scope of action. However, we emphasize that this is not a deterministic relationship. Some scope of action for deliberate interference and proactive behaviour by political and administrative leaders remain.

Firstly, our analysis of the reform process within the field of internal security and safety in Norway bear witness that reforms are to a large extent formed through established organizational arrangements, doctrines and principles that set limits to the scope of action. Secondly, we find that the process and outcome cannot be characterized as a result of rational planning alone but has clear negotiation based features. The reform initiatives involved actors with partly conflicting interests, and the organizational pattern appears to be a result of turf wars, conflicts of interests, compromises, and the establishment of certain winning coalitions. Thirdly, the established arrangements and institutions seem infused by traditions, organizational culture, established routines and rules, and informal norms, values and identities. This has a vital independent influence on how work within the field is carried out, and more particularly on how crises are prevented and managed. Central actors do not necessarily easily adapt, neither to new signals from political or administrative leaders, nor to alterations in the external environment.

Crisis and risk management typically takes place under uncertain and ambiguous conditions. In these situations, the prevalence of rational choices characterized by clear, stable and consistent goals, a fair understanding of available goals and means, and an apparent centre of authority and power, is not realistic. More likely, central goals will be rather unclear, ambiguous and partly conflicting, technological constraints may be uncertain, and there will be difficulties concerning the prediction of events and effects of relevant choices. In these situations, a flexible political and administrative coordination based on institutionally fixed rules, routines and roles may be a reasonable alternative to action based on calculated planning (Olsen, 1989). The extent to which such coordination processes succeed, is related to the existence of mutual trust and dependence between political and administrative leaders, between different professions, between central and local governments, between sectors, and between the population and government.

In Norway, such high levels of mutual trust are relatively well established (Rothstein & Stolle, 2003). This is the case both between public organizations, and between the population and the government. It has facilitated the introduction of trust-based regulatory arrangements, such as internal audit and control. It can also explain a relatively high acceptance of strong measures in the fight against terror (Rykkja,Fimreite & Lægreid, 2011). An explanation for the high level of trust in the Norwegian community is that there have been few disasters or path-breaking crises that have challenged these trust relationships. However, there are also examples of crises that are largely the result of poor internal audit and lack of control, for example the management of an explosion accident that spread toxic gases in western Norway in 2007 (Lervåg, 2010).

A discussion of adequate risk management raises the question of accountability. When risks with potentially large adverse effects are identified, the next step is to ask who is responsible, or who should take the blame? A natural institutional response is often to evade responsibility and try to avoid blame. If responsibility is not placed, the result is often damaging blame games. The tsunami disaster in 2004 may be a telling example. The reorganization process we have followed in this chapter also touches upon these issues.

Accountability relationships in crisis situations are complex, and illustrate the ‘wickedness’ of the field of internal security and safety. A main a question is to whom account is to be rendered. Bovens has framed this as ‘the question of the many eyes’ (Bovens, 2007). Here, there is a central dividing line between administrative or managerial accountability, and political accountability. Fimreite, Lango, Lægreid & Rykkja (2011) show, by analyzing several different cases of crisis management in Norway, that managerial accountability is more often discussed than political accountability. This is especially the case in complex crisis situations and in situations where problems cross traditional sector lines. Judging from these case-studies, it seems that politicians have a tendency avoid blame, while administrative leaders leave office. Because the decentralization principle dictates that a crisis should be handled at the lowest possible level, it can be seen to emphasize managerial accountability. The question of political accountability is a difficult one. Causes, as well as responsibility lines are often diffuse and difficult to trace. Politicians may frame policies, but administrators and civil servants implement them and have the operational responsibility, thereby creating potentially influential policy outcomes. Furthermore, the framing of the crisis is important, but may change over time, creating even more accountability problems.

Lastly, professional accountability is often an important dimension. In situations of uncertainly, and often when ‘new’ risks arise, there are frequently disagreements concerning who has the relevant type of expertise, which type of (scientific) knowledge is the most reliable, and questions as to whether experts are independent (Bovens & ‘t Hart, 1996; Jasanoff, 1990). Conflicts between different groups of experts are not uncommon. In these kinds of situations the question on professional accountability is especially difficult to handle.


6. Conclusions

Our chapter has revealed that organization for internal security and safety is a struggle concerning both attention to and definition of relevant problems and organizational solutions. A central theme has been the establishment of permanent organizations that can address the wicked inter-organizational issues in a coordinated and continuous manner, with enough resources and capacity. We have also seen that the definition of problems and solutions varies over time, and is affected by executive design, historical-institutional constraints, negotiations and external pressures.

The established principles concerning liability, decentralization and conformity represent different forms of specialization, but have little to offer when it comes to coordination, a particular pressing problem within the field. The principle of conformity seems particularly difficult to practice. The expectation that the organization model in extreme crisis situations is to be similar to a normal situation is difficult to live up to. Crises and disasters are in their being unexpected and surprising situations, where established organizational forms often prove inadequate. Generally, there is an urgent need for improvisation, rapid and flexible response. Often, established hierarchical structures, lines of command and competence areas are overstepped.

The principle of liability is also problematic, whereas crises and disasters are exceedingly ‘wicked’, in the sense that they typically cross established organizational borders. Increasingly, successful crisis management has to be performed at the interface between organizations and levels of administration. The principle of liability establishes responsibility within single organizations, but represents an obstruction for the coordination problems in a larger crisis situation. The principle of decentralization may also represent a problem, whereas crisis situations often demand a balancing of the need for a flexible scope of action at the local level, and the need for central control and leadership. A central question is therefore how to handle the demand for more hierarchical control and leadership when major crises, disasters or risks threat society.

Several studies have shown that military command and control methods in crisis management can be problematic (Boin et al., 2008). In crises of a larger magnitude, and where the issue crosses traditional institutional borders, crisis management may take place in the shadows of formal hierarchy, especially since there often is a need for flexibility, improvisation and network cooperation. Traditional risk management is often focused on single issues, neglecting the risk of complex and wicked issues.

The two main doctrines in the Norwegian government system, the principle of ministerial responsibility and the principle of local self government, have quite clearly set limitations to the efforts to solve cross-cutting coordination problems. Our analysis shows that these doctrines stand firm. Attempts to establish a strong coordination at the centre over the last years have largely failed. Instead, we have seen a rather cautious upgrading of the over-arching and coordinative responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice and its underlying agencies. New organizational arrangements have been set up as more ad hoc or virtual organizations without permanent resources attached.

Organizing for internal security and safety is a constant struggle to gain sufficient attention. It concerns definitions of what are the relevant problems and organizational solutions, and has been concentrated on discussions on the establishment of permanent bodies that may work continuously within the field and with sufficient resources. Definitions of and solutions vary across time, and are affected by traditions and interest of the different actors involved. What we see is a mixture of rational design, negotiations, administrative cultural constraints and adaptation to external changes and pressure. There is no simple explanation to the reorganization processes. Our argument is that the reforms in this policy field are based on a combination of different driving forces (Fimreite, Lægreid & Rykkja, 2011). Both instrumental and institutional approaches contribute to the understanding of the reorganization process. Single-factor explanations face considerable problems when their claims are confronted with empirical data (Lægreid & Verhoest, 2010). The organization of this policy field is becoming increasingly complex with different organizational principles resulting from multiple factors working together in a complex mix. It is an example of a compound administrative reform process, which is multi-dimensional and represents ‘mixed’ orders, and a combination of competing, inconsistent and partly contradictory organizational principles and structures that co-exist and balances different interests and values (Olsen 2010).

The field of internal security and safety in Norway has developed and changed since the end of the Cold War, and has gained new focus and attention. The development of a new coordination policy is characterized by the shift from a military to stronger civil focus. But despite the radical proposals from the Vulnerability Commission and Infrastructure Commission, changes have been small and incremental. The tsunami disaster in 2004 resulted in a new effort in the reorganization process, but largely only led to slight changes to the established responsibility relationships. The development on this field is distinct to other reforms in Norway, for instance the hospital reform and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service reform, where organizational changes have been more radical (Christensen & Lægreid, 2010). In these cases the government managed to implement large structural reforms. An important difference is that these reforms did not raise cross-sector issues to the same degree. Both reforms happened largely within closed sectors. This confirms the strengths of the separate policy sectors in the Norwegian case.

A strengthening of the central governmental core within the internal security and safety area has proved difficult in the Norwegian case. However, risk management can not be based on an excessive belief in hierarchy, command and control. To manage internal security issues by establishing central meta-organizations, such as the Department of Homeland Security in the US in 2003, do not necessarily reduce risk-levels (Peters, 2004).

In spite of the reluctant organizational changes, our study illustrates that the field is still very fragmented. Responsibility is divided among several actors at different levels, at different levels, and within different sectors and organizational settings. There is a mismatch between the strong specialization by sector, administrative apparatus, and a policy field that does not follow traditional sector lines. A strengthening of the horizontal coordination between the ministries might be necessary to handle the need for better integration and horizontal coordination. The dominant steering principles and in the Norwegian system, are still fundamental cornerstones, and have not been altered. Thus, any change within the field will take time, or may possibly require the effects of a major and path-breaking disaster hitting Norway more directly.


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  • This chapter is partly based on Lango & Lægreid (2011).

Written By

Peter Lango, Lise H. Rykkja and Per Lægreid

Submitted: 26 October 2010 Published: 28 July 2011