Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


This paper addresses an important question: what can a highly complex public health situation such as the Dallas-Fort Worth Ebola outbreak tell us about the use of discretion by executive level public administrators? The public administration literature is rich with evidence of street-level bureaucratic discretion, but has not explored executive level discretion decision making. The authors argue that in highly complex situations of uncertainty, such as in the case of the Dallas-Fort Worth regional Ebola emergency response, the executive use of discretion translates to decisions under the conditions of uncertainty. This article theorizes a logic of uncertainty when two important assumptions exist; the situation is absent a plan to guide decision making, and the decision makers lack any previous precedent with the situation. Results indicate that when survey respondents departed from their emergency management plan, and planned as the event folded, they were more likely to use executive discretion decision making.



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