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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and 
Emergency Management, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 
House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT:
Wednesday, September 30, 2009: 

Emergency Preparedness: 

Improved Planning and Coordination Necessary for Development of 
Integrated Public Alert and Warning System: 

Statement of Mark L. Goldstein, Director: 
Physical Infrastructure: 

GAO-09-1044T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-09-1044T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

A comprehensive system to alert the American people in times of hazard 
allows people to take action to save lives. The Federal Emergency 
Management Agency (FEMA) is the agency within the Department of 
Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for the current Emergency Alert 
System (EAS) and the development of the new Integrated Public Alert and 
Warning System (IPAWS). In this testimony, based on its report released 
today, GAO discusses (1) the current status of EAS, (2) the progress 
made by FEMA in implementing an integrated alert and warning system, 
and (3) coordination issues involved in implementing an integrated 
alert and warning system. GAO conducted a survey of states, reviewed 
FEMA and other documentation, and interviewed industry stakeholders and 
officials from federal agencies responsible for public alerting. 

What GAO Found: 

As the primary national-level public warning system, EAS is an 
important alert tool but it exhibits longstanding weaknesses that limit 
its effectiveness. In particular, the reliability of the national-level 
relay system—which would be critical if the President were to issue a 
national-level alert—remains questionable due to a lack of redundancy; 
gaps in coverage; a lack of testing and training; and limitations in 
how alerts are disseminated to the public. Further, EAS provides little 
capability to alert specific geographic areas. FEMA has projects under 
way to address some of these weaknesses. However, to date, little 
progress has been made and EAS remains largely unchanged since GAO’s 
previous review, completed in March 2007. As a result, EAS does not 
fulfill the need for a reliable, comprehensive alert system. 

Initiated in 2004, FEMA’s IPAWS program has made little progress. IPAWS 
is intended to integrate new and existing alert capabilities, including 
EAS, into a comprehensive “system of systems.” However, national-level 
alert capabilities have remained unchanged and new technologies have 
not been adopted. IPAWS efforts have been affected by shifting program 
goals, lack of continuity in planning, staff turnover, and poorly 
organized program information from which to make management decisions. 
The vision of IPAWS has changed twice over the course of the program 
and strategic goals and milestones are not clearly defined, as IPAWS 
has operated without an implementation plan from early 2007 through 
June 2009. Consequently, as state and local governments are forging 
ahead with their own alert systems, IPAWS program implementation has 
stalled and many of the functional goals of IPAWS, such as geo-
targeting of messages and dissemination through redundant pathways to 
multiple devices, have yet to reach operational capacity. FEMA 
conducted a series of pilot projects without systematically assessing 
outcomes or lessons learned and without substantially advancing alert 
and warning systems. FEMA does not periodically report on IPAWS 
progress, therefore, program transparency and accountability are 
lacking. 

FEMA faces coordination issues in developing and implementing IPAWS. 
Effective public warning depends on the expertise, efforts, and 
cooperation of diverse stakeholders, such as state and local emergency 
managers and the telecommunications industry. However, many 
stakeholders GAO contacted know little about IPAWS and expressed the 
need for better coordination with FEMA. A GAO survey indicated that the 
majority of state emergency management directors had little 
communication with FEMA regarding IPAWS. FEMA has taken steps to 
improve its coordination efforts by planning to participate in 
emergency management conferences and building improved relationships 
between the IPAWS program and FEMA regional offices. However, despite 
stating its plans to create a stakeholder subcommittee and state 
advisory committees, FEMA has established neither group and has no 
current plans to do so. 

What GAO Recommends: 

In the report released today, GAO recommends that FEMA implement 
processes for systems development and deployment, report periodically 
on progress toward achieving an integrated public alert and warning 
system, and implement a plan to verify the dependability of IPAWS and 
to train IPAWS participants. In response to our report, DHS agreed with 
all of the recommendations and provided explanations of actions aimed 
at addressing them. However, FEMA’s planned actions to address the 
recommendations may not be sufficient. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-1044T] or key 
components. For GAO report, view [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-834]. For survey results, view GAO-
09-880SP. For more information, contact Mark Goldstein at (202) 512-
2834 or goldsteinm@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our report being released 
today on the status of the nation's emergency public alert and warning 
systems.[Footnote 1] This system, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), 
provides the President and other authorized officials with limited 
capacity to transmit emergency messages to the public. In our previous 
work, we have found that EAS relies upon antiquated methods that date 
back to 1963, exposing the system to weaknesses, including questionable 
reliability and versatility. In 2006, the Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS), by executive order, was given the responsibility for 
modernizing public alert and warning systems to ensure the capability 
of distributing alerts through varied telecommunications modes and to 
tailor alerts to specific geographic areas. The Federal Emergency 
Management Agency (FEMA), the entity within DHS responsible for the 
program, is working on the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System 
(IPAWS), which is intended to eventually integrate EAS into a larger 
warning network. When completed, EAS is expected to be superseded by 
the IPAWS "system of systems," to form the country's comprehensive 
public alert system. As FEMA develops IPAWS, state and local 
governments are implementing warning systems which may be difficult to 
integrate with the broader IPAWS system. 

My testimony, based on our report released today, focuses on (1) the 
current status of EAS, (2) the progress made in FEMA's efforts to 
modernize and integrate alert and warning systems, and (3) coordination 
issues involved in implementing an integrated public alert and warning 
system. To obtain information on public alert and warning systems, we 
conducted a Web-based survey of emergency management directors in all 
50 states and the District of Columbia. We met with officials from FEMA 
and other applicable federal agencies, as well as representatives of 
state and local emergency management offices; industry stakeholder 
organizations; public and private sector alert and warning experts; and 
private sector stakeholders, including broadcasters, the wireless 
industry, emergency alert technology companies, emergency management 
associations, and consumer advocacy groups. In addition, we conducted 
interviews with state participants in FEMA's IPAWS pilot programs. We 
examined federal agency documentation including planning, program 
status, and financial information; agency orders and rules; testimony 
statements; and briefings. We conducted our work for the report in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Background: 

EAS, the nation's primary alerting system, provides capacity for the 
United States to issue alerts and warnings to the public through 
broadcast and other media. FEMA administers EAS at the national level 
and is responsible for distributing presidential alerts to National 
Primary stations, often referred to as Primary Entry Point (PEP) 
stations.[Footnote 2] The PEP stations relay broadcasts of these 
national-level alerts across the country to radio and television 
stations, which then rebroadcast the message to other broadcast 
stations and cable systems. This retransmission of alerts from EAS 
participant to EAS participant is commonly referred to as a "daisy 
chain" distribution system. 

In June 2006, the President issued Executive Order 13407, entitled 
Public Alert and Warning System, effecting a policy that the U.S. have 
a comprehensive integrated alert and warning system, and detailing the 
responsibilities of the Secretary of Homeland Security in meeting this 
requirement.[Footnote 3] The Secretary of Homeland Security was ordered 
to "ensure an orderly and effective transition" from current 
capabilities to the system described by the executive order, and to 
report on the implementation of the system within 90 days of the order, 
and on at least a yearly basis, thereafter. The FEMA IPAWS program was 
initiated in 2004 and the development and implementation of IPAWS has 
become the programmatic mechanism to carry out the executive order. 
IPAWS is defined by FEMA as a "system of systems," which is intended to 
eventually integrate existing and new alert systems, including EAS. 
That is, EAS is expected to be superseded as the nation's primary alert 
function by IPAWS, with EAS acting as one of its component parts and as 
one of IPAWS's mechanisms to disseminate alerts. 

The Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act of 2006 (WARN Act) 
[Footnote 4] established an advisory panel called the Commercial Mobile 
Service Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC),[Footnote 5] which proposed 
to develop a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). CMAS was started as 
a cellular broadcast text alert initiative, under which FEMA has 
accepted the responsibility for disseminating alerts using the IPAWS 
system. Another intended partner system is the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Radio (NWR). NWR 
broadcasts National Weather Service forecasts and all-hazard warnings. 
State and local governments are developing and deploying their own 
alert systems which FEMA intends to integrate into the IPAWS system. 
Figure 1 displays the conceptual architecture of IPAWS, with EAS, CMAS, 
and NWR as mechanisms for disseminating alerts. 

Figure 1: IPAWS Conceptual Architecture: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Federal: 
State: 
Local: 

Input to: IPAWS. 

IPAWS: Input to: 

* Emergency Alert System: 
- National Primary; 
- State Primary; 
- Local Primary. 

* NOAA National Weather Radio; 

* CMAS; 

* Other Commercial Alert and Warning Services. 

Source: FEMA. 

[End of figure] 

IPAWS will make use of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), which is an 
open, non-proprietary digital message standard compatible with multiple 
applications and telecommunication methods. CAP has been developed for 
use by emergency management officials in sending all types of alert 
messages and can be used as a single input to activate multiple warning 
systems. FEMA--required by the executive order to adopt alert standards 
and protocols--intends to adopt CAP and to publish its IPAWS CAP 
Profile standard. 

EAS Remains the Nation's Primary Public Alert and Warning System, But 
Unaddressed Weaknesses Limit its Effectiveness: 

EAS remains the primary national-level public alert system and serves 
as a valuable public alert and warning tool. Nonetheless, as we 
previously reported, EAS exhibits longstanding weaknesses that continue 
to limit its effectiveness.[Footnote 6] While FEMA has projects under 
way to address some of these weaknesses with EAS, to date, little 
progress has been made and EAS remains largely unchanged since our 
previous review, completed in March 2007. We found the reliability of 
the national-level relay system--which would be critical if the 
President were to issue a national-level alert--remains questionable 
due to (1) a lack of redundancy, (2) gaps in coverage, (3) a lack of 
testing and training, and (4) limitations in how alerts are 
disseminated to the public. 

Lack of redundancy. FEMA lacks alternative means of reaching EAS 
participants should its primary connection fail. Specifically, FEMA can 
distribute national-level alerts to 35 PEP stations (which serve as the 
entry points for Presidential alerts) and to 860 public radio stations 
across the country via EAS phone lines and satellite connectivity, 
respectively. However, FEMA lacks an alternative means of reaching 
these participants if those primary connections fail. Furthermore, if a 
primary connection to a PEP station failed, all of the other EAS 
participants that rely on that station via the daisy chain relay system 
would fail to receive alerts. 

Gaps in coverage. Gaps in PEP station broadcast coverage could hinder 
the successful dissemination of EAS alerts, as some broadcast stations 
might have difficulty in monitoring their assigned PEP station because 
the station is geographically distant. Some states, such as Maine, are 
not covered at all by the PEP system and would have to pick up a 
national-level message from an alternate source, such as Public 
Radio.[Footnote 7] This might not be a fully reliable option because, 
unlike PEP stations, public radio stations do not necessarily have 
extra fuel and generators on-site to help ensure continuous operations 
following a disaster. 

Lack of testing and training. FEMA does not perform ongoing national- 
level tests of the daisy chain relay system to ensure that it would 
work as intended during a national-level alert. In January 2007, in 
response to our ongoing work, FEMA conducted a national-level EAS test 
in which three PEP stations failed to receive and effectively 
rebroadcast the national-level test message. FEMA has not held another 
national-level test since 2007 and has no plans for testing the relay 
distribution system. The recent failure of an accidental Presidential 
alert suggests that problems remain in the relay system. In this 
incident, a national-level (Presidential) alert was inadvertently 
initiated in Illinois. While intended as a test, due to equipment 
failure, the alert failed to be properly disseminated by all EAS 
participants. While FEMA officials say this situation has since been 
rectified, no testing has been done to confirm that the equipment used 
would work properly in the event of an actual emergency. Another 
longstanding weakness of EAS is inadequate training for EAS 
participants, both in using EAS equipment and in drafting of EAS 
messages. In 2007, we reported that several EAS stakeholders, including 
state and local officials, identified inadequate training as a 
limitation of EAS and cited a need for additional instruction in 
equipment use and message creation. Our current work indicates that 
such training is still needed as FEMA has no active training program 
and most respondents to our state survey of emergency managers cited 
inadequate levels of training. According to FEMA, it is currently 
analyzing and assessing EAS operator training needs, but has not yet 
implemented any new training initiatives. 

Limitations in how alerts are disseminated to the public. EAS's 
reliance on broadcast and other media currently exclude other 
communications devices, such as cell phones. In addition, it remains 
difficult for EAS to reach distinct segments of the population. For 
example, alerts are typically provided only in English and alerting 
mechanisms provide unequal access for persons with disabilities. 
Further, effective public alerting via EAS is also hindered by its 
limited ability to target alert messages to specific geographic 
locations. 

While FEMA Has IPAWS Initiatives Under Way, Progress in Implementing an 
Integrated Alert System Has Been Limited: 

FEMA began initiatives related to IPAWS in 2004, yet national-level 
alert capabilities have remained unchanged and new standards and 
technologies have not been adopted. IPAWS has operated without a 
consistent strategic vision and has been adversely affected by shifting 
program vision, lack of continuity in planning and program direction, 
and poorly organized program information from which to make management 
decisions. Therefore, as state and local governments are developing 
their alert systems, IPAWS program implementation has stalled and many 
of its functional goals have yet to reach operational capacity. 
Additionally, FEMA's investment in the IPAWS pilot projects--seed 
initiatives intended to test alert technologies and form the foundation 
of IPAWS--has resulted in few lessons learned and few advances in alert 
and warning systems. Furthermore, FEMA does not report on IPAWS 
spending or progress in achieving goals, which limits transparency and 
accountability for program results. 

FEMA Has Begun Some Projects, but Has Yet to Integrate Alert Systems or 
Adopt New Technologies and Standards: 

Although IPAWS has existed since 2004 with the original objective of 
modernizing and integrating public alert and emergency warning systems 
across federal, state, and local governments, national-level alert 
system capabilities remain unchanged and have yet to be integrated. In 
June 2006, Executive Order 13407 specified the responsibilities of DHS 
and FEMA with respect to a public alert and warning system, 
establishing 10 functions for the Secretary of Homeland Security. Since 
the executive order, FEMA has launched or continued, under the IPAWS 
program, several projects intended to address the 10 functions 
specified in the order. However, the IPAWS projects under way designed 
to meet the requirements of the executive order have shown little 
progress and some of the projects cited by FEMA have been under 
development since the inception of IPAWS and have yet to be completed. 
For example, as early as 2005, FEMA planned efforts to provide warning 
messages to subscribers via email and to telephones, text message 
devices, cell phones, pagers, and Internet desktops. These capabilities 
were tested under various IPAWS pilot projects, but the development and 
implementation of the methods were discontinued. 

FEMA has exceeded numerous timelines that it set for IPAWS initiatives. 
Figure 2 demonstrates some of the IPAWS programs that still are not 
implemented, including their original timelines for completion. 

Figure 2: Examples of Incomplete IPAWS Projects with Exceeded 
Timelines: 

[Refer to PDF for image: timeline] 

EAS Satellite connectivity to PEPs and States: 
4th quarter fiscal year 2005. 

XM Satellite alert transmission and EAS link: 
August 2007. 

GTAS initial capability in National Capital region: 
September 2007. 

DEAS deployment to all states: 
December 2007. 

PEP expansion to 90 percent coverage: 
Fiscal year 2008. 

Digital Presidential video, voice, and text messaging capability: 
January 2009. 

Adoption of the CAP Profile: 
First quarter 2009. 

Source: GAO analysis of FEMA information. 

Note: The Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS), Geo-targeted Alerting 
System (GTAS), and XM Satellite EAS link are IPAWS projects. 

[End of figure] 

Shifting Program Vision and Lack of Continuity in Planning Have 
Adversely Affected Efforts to Modernize and Integrate Alerts: 

FEMA's efforts to create an integrated and modernized alert and warning 
system have been affected by (1) shifting program vision, (2) 
difficulties in program planning and management, (3) a lack of 
collection or organization of program information from which to make 
management decisions, and (4) staff turnover. 

Shifting program vision. The IPAWS program vision has changed several 
times, slowing progress toward an integrated system. Figure 3 shows the 
evolution of the IPAWS vision. 

Figure 3: FEMA's Shifting Vision for IPAWS: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Late 2004 to early 2007: 
Integrated public alert and warning system that provides federal, 
state, and local officials with multiple means to provide timely public 
alerts. 
Goal: Alert all people on all communications devices. 

Early 2007 to early 2009: 
IPAWS architecture will ensure that the President will be able to send 
an alert to the public during any hazardous event. 
Goal: Deliver the presidential message to the nation. 

Early 2009 onward: 
Build and maintain an integrated and comprehensive system that enables 
people to receive alerts and warnings through as many means as 
possible. 
Goal: IPAWS will provide local, state, and federal authorities 
integrated services and capabilities to alert and warn their 
communities, via multiple communications methods of any hazard 
impacting public safety. 

Sources: FEMA and GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Difficulties in program planning and management. From early 2007 
through June 2009, the IPAWS effort operated without a designated 
implementation plan and no specific processes for systems development 
and deployment. The new implementation plan, completed in June 2009, 
includes only a vague overview of IPAWS initiatives and does not 
adequately satisfy the project management and planning practices 
essential for effective program execution. Other planning documentation 
that exist indicate a lack of continuous overall strategic vision with 
disparate projects not tied together by a cohesive plan.[Footnote 8] 

Lack of collection or organization of program information from which to 
make management decisions. Throughout the course of our work, FEMA 
officials told us that many key IPAWS documents did not exist or were 
irretrievable. Moreover, a FEMA consultant[Footnote 9] who is assessing 
IPAWS has found that there is no cogent organization system to locate 
program information, that information exists in multiple locations 
across FEMA office spaces, and that data searches on program 
information take an inordinate amount of time and effort. The 
consultant also found more robust and realistic documented internal 
controls are necessary. 

We requested documentation on FEMA and DHS reporting requirements or 
performance measures for which the IPAWS program prepared documented 
updates of its progress. However, neither FEMA nor DHS regularly report 
on IPAWS.[Footnote 10] FEMA was able to provide a performance 
information worksheet and spreadsheet, but this documentation provided 
only vague program parameters, without progress updates on reaching 
specific goals or milestones. The FEMA IPAWS consultant is performing a 
full assessment of the IPAWS program with the intention of implementing 
internal controls and performance measures. However, the absence of 
accurate periodic reporting on IPAWS leaves valuable program 
information unavailable. Such information would help increase program 
transparency, establish greater program accountability, and assure a 
reasonable assessment of return on financial investments. Additionally, 
periodic reporting on IPAWS would provide FEMA's private sector 
partners and those in government at the federal, state, and local level 
with information necessary to help establish an integrated alert and 
warning system. Such reporting would also assist the Congress as it 
oversees issues related to public alert and warning. 

Staff turnover. Progress toward an integrated alert system has also 
been slowed by frequent changes in organizational leadership of the 
IPAWS program office and other staffing related issues. During our 
review, IPAWS was operating under an acting director--its third 
director since the program began in 2004--and was searching for a 
permanent director. According to FEMA, a new director took charge of 
the program on August 3, 2009. Additionally, according to FEMA 
officials, high turnover of program staff has made it difficult to 
consistently manage IPAWS programs. FEMA's heavy use of contract 
employees has also resulted in concerns from stakeholders that IPAWS is 
dominated with outside contractors who do not fully understand alert 
and warning needs. At the program office itself, there is a 
preponderance of contract staff. As of June 2009, the program office 
consisted of 27 contractor staff and 5 FEMA IPAWS staff positions were 
filled out of 11 noncontract full-time equivalent positions that were 
available. 

Limited Program Accountability for IPAWS Projects Has Contributed to 
Inconclusive Results and Lessons Learned: 

To demonstrate the integration and expansion of new alerting 
technologies, and to work toward the functionality described in the 
executive order, FEMA has implemented a series of IPAWS pilot projects, 
but they have ended inconclusively, with few documented lessons 
learned. Interviews with FEMA officials and IPAWS documents revealed 
inconsistent information on the purpose of the pilot programs and how 
they supported broader IPAWS goals. Although we requested reports 
documenting the plans, lessons learned, and technological or 
operational outcomes, for most pilot projects, such documentation was 
never produced.[Footnote 11] Rather, the extent of the documentation 
FEMA provided on the pilots includes general briefing slides with broad 
program descriptions. As a result of the lack of project assessments, 
reporting, and documentation, it is unclear which aspects of the IPAWS 
projects, if any, are currently being used or plan to be used in the 
future or whether the projects informed actions or decisions with 
respect to the IPAWS program. Initial findings from an IPAWS program 
assessment, performed by the FEMA consultant, revealed that in most 
cases, key project deliverables for which FEMA contracted, could not be 
accounted for. 

Responses from our survey of state emergency management directors 
indicate that most of the 12 states that reported participating in the 
pilot projects reacted unfavorably when asked about the outcomes and 
lessons learned from the pilots. Lack of coordination, poor management, 
incomplete execution, and short project duration were cited, among 
other things, as lessons learned or outcomes from the pilots. Some 
states cited positive outcomes and were generally more optimistic about 
their participation. 

FEMA Faces Coordination Issues in Implementing IPAWS: 

To effectively develop and implement IPAWS, FEMA depends on the efforts 
and expertise of diverse stakeholders, yet stakeholders we surveyed 
cited coordination as the primary issue facing the implementation of 
IPAWS. Given that the IPAWS vision relies heavily upon disseminating 
alerts through state and local warning systems, many respondents to our 
state survey seek opportunities to contribute to IPAWS planning and 
consider collaboration among all levels of government to be imperative 
to the delivery of public alerts and warnings. While there is broad 
consensus regarding the need for coordination, FEMA's efforts to date 
have been insufficient, according to many stakeholders we contacted. 
The majority of our state survey respondents received little to no 
information from FEMA and communicated with FEMA to little or no 
extent. Further, the majority of respondents had little or no 
understanding of IPAWS. In figure 4, we display the survey responses of 
state emergency management directors. 

Figure 4: Survey Responses of State Emergency Management Directors on 
FEMA IPAWS Information, Training, Communication, and Coordination: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Survey item: Receive information or updates from FEMA on adoption of 
the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP); 
Great extent: 0%; 
Some extent: 34%; 
Little extent: 36%; 
No extent: 23%. 

Survey item: Receive communiqués from FEMA regarding IPAWS program; 
Great extent: 2%; 
Some extent: 23%; 
Little extent: 32%; 
No extent: 32%. 

Survey item: Exchange communications with FEMA representatives about 
IPAWS; 
Great extent: 4%; 
Some extent: 26%; 
Little extent: 26%; 
No extent: 34%. 

Survey item: Receive invitations to or participate in formal meetings 
or working groups with FEMA or DHS.	
Great extent: 6
Some extent: 32
Little extent: 21
No extent: 30 

Survey item: Solicited for input to FEMA on issues related to emergency 
alerts and warnings; 
Great extent: 6%; 
Some extent: 23%; 
Little extent: 30%; 
No extent: 32%. 

Survey item: Participate in FEMA training, tests, and exercises for 
IPAWS; 
Great extent: 2%; 
Some extent: 13%; 
Little extent: 17%; 
No extent: 60%. 

Survey item: Participate in FEMA public education efforts on integrated 
alerts and public warning; 
Great extent: 0%; 
Some extent: 9%; 
Little extent: 19%; 
No extent: 55%. 

Source: GAO survey of state emergency management directors. 

[End of figure] 

Some of these views were echoed by federal partners, such as NOAA, 
which noted that coordination could be improved, and the DHS Office of 
Science and Technology, which cited its relationship with FEMA as a 
primary challenge to developing an integrated alert system. 
Additionally, local officials we surveyed[Footnote 12] had little to no 
communication with FEMA, were generally unaware of the IPAWS program, 
and overall, lacked an understanding of the CAP alert standard. 

FEMA officials acknowledged that they have, thus far, insufficiently 
engaged state-level stakeholders and have recently taken steps to 
increase their communication and collaboration efforts. As part of 
their Stakeholder Engagement Plan, FEMA plans to continue its 
participation in alert and warning and emergency management 
conferences; to engage relevant congressional committees; to build 
relationships with FEMA Regions, which can pass information to state 
and local government officials; and to build relationships with other 
organizations and media outlets. As recently as May 2008, FEMA said it 
intended to create a stakeholder subcommittee and informed us of plans 
to establish state advisory committees. However, FEMA subsequently told 
us that neither the stakeholder subcommittee nor state advisory 
committees have been implemented and there are no current plans to 
establish such groups. FEMA did form three working groups with the 
limited scope of reviewing and validating requirements for the CAP 
Profile.[Footnote 13] 

Conclusions and Recommendations: 

Emergency communications are critical in crisis management and for 
protecting the public in situations of war, terrorist attack, or 
natural disaster; yet, FEMA has made limited progress in implementing a 
comprehensive, integrated alert system as is the policy of the federal 
government. Management turnover, inadequate planning, and a lack of 
stakeholder coordination have delayed implementation of IPAWS and left 
the nation dependent on an antiquated, unreliable national alert 
system. FEMA's delays also appear to have made IPAWS implementation 
more difficult in the absence of federal leadership as states have 
forged ahead and invested in their own alert and warning systems. In 
order that IPAWS achieve the federal government's public alert and 
warning goals, it is essential that FEMA define the specific steps 
necessary in realizing a modernized and integrated alert system and 
report on the progress toward achieving that end. Additionally, 
effectively implementing an integrated alert system will require 
collaboration among a broad spectrum of stakeholders. 

In our report released today, we recommend that FEMA implement 
processes for systems development and deployment, report periodically 
on progress toward achieving an integrated public alert and warning 
system, and implement a plan to verify the dependability of IPAWS and 
to train IPAWS participants. In reviewing a draft of the report, DHS 
stated that it agrees with all of our recommendations to improve public 
alert and warning and provided explanations of actions aimed at 
addressing them. However, FEMA's planned actions to address some of the 
recommendations may not be sufficient as they are limited in scope and 
require greater specifics. As such, additional actions to improve 
program planning and coordination are necessary to achieve a 
comprehensive, integrated alert system. 

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be 
happy to respond to any questions you or other Members of the 
Subcommittee may have at this time. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information about this testimony, please contact Mark L. 
Goldstein at (202) 512-2834 or goldsteinm@gao.gov. Individuals making 
key contributions to this testimony included Ryan D'Amore, Colin 
Fallon, Simon Galed, Sally Moino, Andrew Stavisky, and Mindi 
Weisenbloom. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Emergency Preparedness: Improved Planning and Coordination 
Necessary for Modernization and Integration of Public Alert and Warning 
System, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-834] 
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 2009). 

[2] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) manages EAS 
participation by media-related communications service providers. 

[3] Exec. Order 13407, 71 Fed. Reg. 36975 (June 26, 2006). 

[4] The Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act was enacted on October 
13, 2006, as title VI of the Security and Accountability for Every Port 
Act, Pub. L. No. 109-347, 120 Stat. 1884 (2006). 

[5] Section 603(c) of the WARN Act required that FCC establish the 
CMSAAC to develop and recommend technical standards and protocols for 
the voluntary transmission of emergency alerts by Commercial Mobile 
Service Providers within one year from the date of enactment of the 
WARN Act (i.e., by October 12, 2007). 

[6] GAO, Emergency Preparedness: Current Emergency Alert System Has 
Limitations, and Development of a New Integrated System Will Be 
Challenging, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-411] 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 2007). 

[7] The State of Maine uses the Maine Public Broadcasting microwave 
system as its primary EAS backbone. Each station in the Maine EAS 
distribution system can receive national-level EAS alerts via National 
Public Radio. 

[8] FEMA indicated that a strategic plan is under development and that 
it has other documentation and processes for system design, that were 
in the process of internal coordination when our review was being 
completed. 

[9] In October 2008, FEMA contracted with a professional services firm 
to provide management, assurance, and financial services for IPAWS. 

[10] The DHS performance and accountability reports do not include 
information on IPAWS. 

[11] Sandia National Laboratories was contracted to implement the Web 
Alert and Relay Network (WARN) pilot. Sandia produced a final report 
for the second phase of the pilot, WARN2, whose results, according to 
FEMA officials, were not accepted by the FEMA IPAWS program management 
office. 

[12] Local officials we contacted were selected based on information 
provided by state emergency management directors. 

[13] Through DHS, FEMA formed a Federal Working Group, Practitioner 
Working Group, and Industry Working Group consisting of federal 
partners, emergency managers and broadcast community members, and 
broadcast vendors, respectively. 

[End of section] 

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