Bureau-political tensions and competition are an often neglected, yet crucial element in crisis management. Bureau-politics in crisis management runs counter to pervasive notions that portray centralization and concentration of power as the dominant mode of administrative response to crisis. This article presents empirical evidence suggesting the importance of bureau-politics in the planning, response and post-crisis stages of crisis management at both strategic and operational levels of action. Again contrary to conventional wisdom, it is argued that such interagency tensions may fulfill various positive functions: they put crisis agencies to the test; they serve to counteract ‘groupthink tendencies; they foster a certain degree of openness; and they may facilitate democratic control of far-reaching crisis management policies.