Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Operational Sciences

First Advisor

Bradley E. Anderson, PhD


This thesis presents a case study of federal logistics support during Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operations. Data from federal contracts covering the first 10 weeks of Katrina are used to measure federal logistics activity. The study investigates whether chaos theory, part of complexity science, can extract information from Katrina contracting data to help managers make better logistics decisions during disaster relief operations. The study uses three analytical techniques: embedding, fitting the data to a logistic equation, and plotting the limit-cycle. Embedding and fitting a logistic equation to the data were used to test for deterministic chaos. The logistic equation and two versions of the limit-cycle model developed by Priesmeyer, Baik, and Cole were also tested as potential management tools. The study found that deterministic chaos was present during the first week of disaster relief, but that results for subsequent weeks were inconclusive, possibly due to internal changes to the relief dynamics. The thesis concludes that initial conditions and early actions will have a significant affect on disaster relief outcomes. Furthermore, many events that appear to be uncontrollable and random may actually be controllable. Therefore, managers play a critical role in preparing for and providing guidance in the early stages of disaster relief.

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