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entitled 'Homeland Security: Coordinated Planning and Standards Needed 
to Better Manage First Responder Grants in the National Capital Region' 
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Testimony:

Before the Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives:

United States General Accounting Office:

GAO:

For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT:

Thursday, June 24, 2004:

HOMELAND SECURITY:

Coordinated Planning and Standards Needed to Better Manage First 
Responder Grants in the National Capital Region:

Statement of William O. Jenkins, Jr., Director, Homeland Security and 
Justice Issues:

GAO-04-904T:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-04-904T, a testimony before the Chairman, Committee 
on Government Reform, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study:

Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the National Capital 
Region (NCR), comprising jurisdictions including the District of 
Columbia and surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, has 
been recognized as a significant potential target for terrorism. GAO 
was asked to report on (1) what federal funds have been allocated to 
NCR jurisdictions for emergency preparedness; (2) what challenges exist 
within NCR to organizing and implementing efficient and effective 
regional preparedness programs; (3) what gaps, if any, remain in the 
emergency preparedness of NCR; and (4) what has been the role of the 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in NCR to date.

What GAO Found:

In fiscal years 2002 and 2003, grant programs administered by the 
Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and 
Justice awarded about $340 million to eight NCR jurisdictions to 
enhance emergency preparedness. Of this total, the Office for National 
Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC) targeted all of the $60.5 million 
Urban Area Security Initiative funds for projects designed to benefit 
NCR as a whole. However, there was no coordinated regionwide plan for 
spending the remaining funds (about $279.5 million). Local 
jurisdictions determined the spending priorities for these funds and 
reported using them for emergency communications and personal 
protective equipment and other purchases. 

NCR faces several challenges in organizing and implementing efficient 
and effective regional preparedness programs, including the lack of a 
coordinated strategic plan for enhancing NCR preparedness, performance 
standards, and a reliable, central source of data on funds available 
and the purposes for which they were spent. 

Without these basic elements, it is difficult to assess first 
responder capacities, identify first responder funding priorities for 
NCR, and evaluate the effectiveness of the use of federal funds in 
enhancing first responder capacities and preparedness in a way that 
maximizes their effectiveness in improving homeland security. 

National Capital Region Jurisdictions: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

What GAO Recommends:

GAO recommends that the Secretary of DHS (1) work with local NCR
jurisdictions to develop a coordinated strategic plan to establish 
capacity enhancement goals and priorities; (2) monitor the planís 
implementation; and (3) identify and address gaps in emergency 
preparedness and evaluate the effectiveness of expenditures by 
conducting assessments based on established standards and guidelines. 

DHS and the ONCRC Senior Policy Group generally agreed with GAOís 
recommendations and noted that a new governance structure, adopted in 
February 2004, should accomplish essential coordination.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-904T

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact William O. Jenkins, Jr., 
at (202) 512-8757 or jenkinswo@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I appreciate the opportunity to testify on the results of our work on 
the management of first responder grants in the National Capital Region 
(NCR). Our report is being released today, and my testimony highlights 
the major findings and recommendations of that report. [Footnote 1]

Our report addressed the following questions:

* What federal funds have been allocated to local jurisdictions in NCR 
for emergency preparedness, for what specific purposes, and from what 
sources?

* What challenges exist within NCR to organizing and implementing 
efficient and effective regional preparedness programs?

* What gaps, if any, remain in the emergency preparedness of NCR?

* What has been the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) role to 
date in enhancing the preparedness of NCR through such actions as 
coordinating the use of federal emergency preparedness grants, 
assessing preparedness, providing guidance, targeting funds to enhance 
preparedness, and monitoring the use of those funds?

To respond to these questions, we met with and obtained documentation 
from officials of DHS including its Office for National Capital Region 
Coordination (ONCRC), the Senior Policy Group, the Metropolitan Council 
of Governments, state emergency management agencies, and first 
responder officials from NCR jurisdictions. We identified 25 emergency 
preparedness programs that provided funding to NCR jurisdictions in 
fiscal years 2002 and 2003, and we selected 16 of them for detailed 
review. These 16 grants were selected to cover a range of programs, 
including the largest funding sources; grants provided for general 
purposes, such as equipment and training; and grants provided for 
specific purposes, such as fire prevention and bioterrorism. We 
collected and analyzed grant data from federal, state, and local 
sources; and reviewed relevant reports, studies, and guidelines on 
homeland security and domestic preparedness. We conducted our review 
from June 2003 through February 2004 in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards.

Summary:

* In fiscal years 2002 and 2003, the DHS, the Department of Justice, 
and the Department of Health and Human Services awarded about $340 
million through 16 grants to NCR jurisdictions. Of these funds, $60.5 
million were from the Urban Area Security Initiative grant, designated 
for region-wide needs, and the Office of National Capital Region 
Coordination has developed a regional plan for their use. The remaining 
funds, about $279.5 million, were available to local jurisdictions for 
a wide variety of needs, such as equipment and training, and local 
jurisdictions determined how these funds were to be spent. Local 
jurisdictions used or planned to use monies from those grants to buy 
equipment and to implement training and exercises for the area's first 
responders, as well as improve planning for responding to a terrorist 
event. But, spending for these purposes was not generally based on a 
coordinated plan for enhancing regional first responder capacities and 
preparedness.

* ONCRC and the NCR face at least three interrelated challenges in 
managing federal funds in a way that maximizes the increase in first 
responder capacities and preparedness while also minimizing 
inefficiency and unnecessary duplication of expenditures. These 
challenges are (1) a lack of preparedness standards; (2) a coordinated 
region-wide plan for establishing first responder performance goals, 
needs, and priorities and assessing the benefits of expenditures in 
enhancing first responder capabilities; and (3) the lack of a readily 
available, reliable source of data on the federal grant funds available 
to first responders in NCR, budget plans and criteria used to determine 
spending priorities, and actual expenditures. Without the standards, a 
region-wide plan, and needed data on spending, it is extremely 
difficult to determine whether NCR first responders have the ability to 
respond to threats and emergencies with well-planned, well-coordinated, 
and effective efforts that involve a variety of first responder 
disciplines from NCR jurisdictions.

* During our review, we could identify no reliable data on preparedness 
gaps in the NCR, which of those gaps were most important, and the 
status of efforts to close those gaps. The baseline data needed to 
assess those gaps had not been fully developed or made available on a 
NCR-wide basis.

* To date, DHS and ONCRC appear to have had a limited role in assessing 
and analyzing first responder needs in NCR and developing a coordinated 
effort to address those needs through the use of federal grant funds. 
ONCRC has focused principally on developing a plan for using the Urban 
Area Security Initiative funds. In its comments on a draft of our 
report, DHS said that a governance structure approved in February 2004, 
should accomplish essential region-wide coordination.

Background:

Since September 11, 2001, the federal government, state and local 
governments, and a range of independent research organizations have 
agreed on the need for a coordinated intergovernmental approach to 
allocating the nation's resources to address the threat of terrorism 
and improve our security. The need for a coordinated approach was most 
recently stated in the report of the Homeland Security Advisory 
Council,[Footnote 2] released earlier this month:

Arguably, while each at-risk locality must be provided adequate 
resources to effectively fight this war, no single jurisdiction or 
response discipline can fight it alone. Effective homeland security 
efforts require continuous regional collaboration and coordination.

Such an approach includes developing national guidelines and standards 
and monitoring and assessing preparedness against those standards to 
effectively manage risk.

The National Strategy for Homeland Security, released in 2002 following 
the proposal for DHS, emphasized a shared national responsibility for 
security involving close cooperation among all levels of government and 
acknowledged the complexity of developing a coordinated approach within 
our federal system of government and among a broad range of 
organizations and institutions involved in homeland security. The 
national strategy highlighted the challenge of developing complementary 
systems that avoid unintended duplication and increase collaboration 
and coordination so that public and private resources are better 
aligned for homeland security. The national strategy established a 
framework for this approach by identifying critical mission areas with 
intergovernmental initiatives in each area. For example, the strategy 
identified such initiatives as modifying federal grant requirements and 
consolidating funding sources to state and local governments. The 
strategy further recognized the importance of assessing the capability 
of state and local governments, developing plans, and establishing 
standards and performance measures to achieve national preparedness 
goals. In addition, many aspects of DHS' success depend on its 
maintaining and enhancing working relationships within the 
intergovernmental system as the department relies on state and local 
governments to accomplish its mission.

ONCRC Responsibilities Include Assessing Capabilities and Advocating 
for Needed Resources:

The creation of DHS was an initial step toward reorganizing the federal 
government to respond to some of the intergovernmental challenges 
identified in the National Strategy for Homeland Security. The Homeland 
Security Act established ONCRC within DHS to oversee and coordinate 
federal programs for, and relationships with, federal, state, local, 
and regional authorities in the NCR.[Footnote 3] Specifically, ONCRC 
was mandated to:

* coordinate the activities of DHS relating to NCR, including 
cooperating with the DHS' Office for State and Local Government 
Coordination;

* coordinate with federal agencies in the NCR on terrorism preparedness 
to ensure adequate planning, information sharing, training, and 
execution of the federal role in domestic preparedness activities;

* coordinate with federal, state, and regional agencies and the private 
sector in NCR on terrorism preparedness to ensure adequate planning, 
information sharing, training, and execution of domestic preparedness 
activities among these agencies and entities;

* serve as a liaison between the federal government and state, local, 
and regional authorities, and private sector entities in NCR to 
facilitate access to federal grants and other programs.[Footnote 4]

With regard to resource assessments and needs, the NCR's 
responsibilities also include:

* assessing and advocating for resources needed by state, local, and 
regional authorities in the NCR to implement efforts to secure the 
homeland and:

* submitting an annual report to Congress that (1) identifies resources 
required to fully implement homeland security efforts, (2) assesses 
progress in implementing homeland security efforts in the NCR, and (3) 
includes recommendations to Congress regarding additional resources 
needed to fully implement homeland security efforts in the NCR.

Grants Available to NCR Jurisdictions and Their Use:

In fiscal years 2002 and 2003, 16 separate federal grant programs 
conveyed about $340 million to state and local emergency management, 
law enforcement, fire, public health, and other emergency response 
agencies in NCR. Two funding sources--the fiscal year 2002 Department 
of Defense Emergency Supplemental Appropriation (almost $230 million) 
and the fiscal year 2003 Urban Area Security Initiative ($60.5 million) 
accounted for about 85 percent of those funds. The Urban Area Security 
Initiative funds were designated for regional use, and a plan has been 
developed for using the funds to benefit the region as a whole. These 
funds have been targeted for equipment ($26.5 million), planning ($12.4 
million), exercises ($4 million), and administrative costs ($1.8 
million), among other things.

The other grant programs were not specifically designated for regional 
purposes, and spending for these funds was determined by individual 
local jurisdictions. These funds were available for such purposes as 
purchasing additional equipment and supplies for first responders; 
planning, coordinating, and evaluating exercises; training first 
responders; funding the emergency preparedness planning efforts and 
administration; and providing technical assistance. NCR jurisdictions 
reported using or planning to use these funds to purchase a range of 
equipment--for example, vehicles and communications equipment--
supplies, training, and technical assistance services.

Challenges to Using Coordinated, Effective Use of Federal Grants in 
NCR:

In our report, we discuss issues associated with managing federal first 
responder grants in NCR, assessing gaps in first responder capacities 
and preparedness in the region, and the role of the Office for National 
Capital Region Coordination in coordinating and assessing efforts to 
enhance first responder capacity across NCR. Effectively managing first 
responder federal grants funds requires the ability to measure progress 
and provide accountability for the use of public funds. A strategic 
approach to homeland security includes identifying threats and managing 
risks, aligning resources to address them, and assessing progress in 
preparing for those threats and risks. As with other major policy 
areas, demonstrating the results of homeland security efforts includes 
developing and implementing strategies, establishing baselines, 
developing and implementing performance goals and data quality 
standards, collecting reliable data, analyzing the data, assessing the 
results, and taking action based on the results. The purpose of these 
efforts with regard to first responder grant funds to be able to answer 
three basic, but difficult, questions:

* For what types of threats and emergencies should first responders be 
prepared?

* What is required--for example, coordination, equipment, training--to 
be prepared for these threats and emergencies?

* How do first responders know that they have met their preparedness 
goals?

NCR is an example of the difficulties of answering the second and third 
questions in particular.

Lack of Standards, Plans, and Data Limit Effective Grant Management to 
Guide First Responder Spending in NCR:

The region faces significant challenges in managing homeland security 
dollars. ONCRC and NCR jurisdictions face three interrelated challenges 
that limit their ability to jointly manage federal funds in a way that 
demonstrates increased first responder capacities and preparedness 
while minimizing inefficiency and unnecessary duplication of 
expenditures.

First, a lack of preparedness standards for both equipment and 
performance means that it is difficult to assess first responder 
capabilities, identify gaps in those capabilities, and measure progress 
in closing those gaps. As in other areas of the nation generally, NCR 
does not have a set of accepted benchmarks (best practices) and 
performance goals that could be used to identify desired goals and 
determine whether first responders have the ability to respond to 
threats and emergencies with well-planned, well-coordinated, and 
effective efforts that involve police, fire, emergency medical, public 
health, and other personnel from multiple jurisdictions.

Second, a strategic plan for the use of homeland security funds--
whether in NCR or elsewhere--should be based on established goals, 
priorities, and measures, and align spending plans with those 
priorities and goals. At the time of our review, ONCRC had developed a 
regional spending plan for the Urban Area Security Initiative grants, 
but this plan was not part of a broader coordinated plan for spending 
federal grant funds and developing first responder capacity and 
preparedness in NCR. The lack of benchmarks and performance goals may 
contribute to difficulties in developing a coordinated region-wide plan 
for determining how to spend federal funds and assessing the benefits 
of that spending.

Third, there is no established process or means for regularly and 
reliably collecting data on (1) the amounts of first responder grants 
available to each jurisdiction and (2) the budget plans and criteria 
used for determining spending allocations and budget priorities. 
Reliable data are needed to establish accountability, analyze gaps, and 
assess progress toward meeting established performance goals. Without 
such data, it is difficult to verify the results of preparedness 
assessments and to establish a baseline that could be used to develop 
plans to address outstanding needs. It should be noted that the 
fragmented nature of the multiple federal grants available to first 
responders--some awarded to states, some to localities, some directly 
to local first responder agencies--may make it more difficult to 
collect and maintain region-wide data on grant funds received and the 
use of those funds in NCR.

Guidance, Reliable Data Needed to Assess Remaining Gaps in First 
Responder Capabilities:

Without national standards, guidance on likely threats and scenerios 
for which to be prepared, coordinated plans, and reliable data, it is 
difficult for us or ONCRC to determine what gaps, if any, remain in the 
emergency response capacities and preparedness within NCR.

Determining the existence of gaps in NCR's emergency preparedness is 
difficult currently because there is little baseline data on the 
region's preparedness, and DHS's Office for National Capital Region 
Coordination does not have information on how NCR localities used 
federal grant dollars to enhance their capacities or preparedness. Even 
if those data were available, a lack of standards against which to 
evaluate the data would also have made it difficult to assess any gaps. 
The Office for Domestic Preparedness collected information on regional 
security risks and needs for NCR jurisdictions, and ONCRC based funding 
decisions for the Urban Area Security Initiative on the results. 
However, as already noted, it is not clear how the Urban Area Security 
Initiative spending plan links to the actual and planned uses for the 
other funding sources that comprised about $279.5 million of the $340 
million in federal homeland security grants to the NCR during fiscal 
years 2002 and 2003.

Each jurisdiction provided us with information on their perceived gaps 
and specific needs for improving emergency preparedness. However, there 
is no consistent method for identifying these gaps among jurisdictions 
within NCR. Several jurisdictions told us that they identify remaining 
gaps based on requests from emergency responder agencies. Other 
jurisdictions said they have established emergency management councils 
or task forces to review their preparedness needs and are developing a 
more strategic plan for funding those needs. Officials of most NCR 
jurisdictions commonly identified the need for more comprehensive and 
redundant communications systems and upgraded emergency operations 
centers.

DHS and ONCRC Appear to Have Had Limited Role in Promoting Regional 
Coordination in NCR:

We recognize that NCR is a complex multijurisdictional area comprising 
the District of Columbia and surrounding county and city jurisdictions 
in Maryland and Virginia. The region is the home to the federal 
government, many national landmarks, and military installations. 
Coordination within this region presents the challenge of working with 
numerous jurisdictions that vary in size, political organization, and 
experience with managing large emergencies.

According to emergency management officials we contacted, DHS' Office 
for National Capital Region Coordination could play a potentially 
important role in assisting them to implement a coordinated, well-
planned effort in using federal resources to improve the region's 
preparedness. In our view, meeting ONCRC's statutory mandate would 
fulfill such a key responsibility.

We recognize that the Office for National Capital Region Coordination 
was created about 15 months ago, and that some start-up time has been 
required. To date, however, it appears that ONCRC's efforts have not 
focused on assessing what has been accomplished with funds available 
within NCR to date and identifying what needs remain and for what 
purposes. ONCRC has concentrated its efforts on developing a 
coordinated assessment and plan for the use of Urban Area Security 
Initiative funds. Although we believe that those steps are important 
for rationalizing and prioritizing the expenditure of homeland security 
dollars designated for region-wide use, ONCRC's efforts generally do 
not address expenditures from the majority of the homeland security 
grant dollars received in NCR. In addition, it is difficult for the 
ONCRC to meet its statutory responsibilities without an NCR emergency 
preparedness baseline, a region-wide plan for prioritizing expenditures 
and assessing their benefits, and reliable data on funds that are 
available and those have been spent.

According to DHS, a governance structure was approved in February 2004 
that will provide the essential region-wide coordination that is 
necessary.

Our Recommendations:

Our report contains several recommendations. To help ensure that 
emergency preparedness grants and associated funds are managed in a way 
that maximizes their effectiveness, we recommend that the Secretary of 
the Department of Homeland Security take the following three actions to 
fulfill DHS's statutory responsibilities in NCR:

* Work with NCR jurisdictions to develop a coordinated strategic plan 
to establish goals and priorities for enhancing first responder 
capacities that can be used to guide the use of federal emergency 
preparedness funds.

* Monitor the plan's implementation to ensure that funds are used in a 
way that promotes effective expenditures that are not unnecessarily 
duplicative.

* Identify and address gaps in emergency preparedness and evaluate the 
effectiveness of expenditures in meeting those needs by adapting 
standards and preparedness guidelines based on likely scenarios for NCR 
and conducting assessments based on them.

In their comments on a draft of our report, DHS and the Senior Policy 
Group generally agreed with our recommendations, but also said that NCR 
jurisdictions had worked cooperatively together to identify 
opportunities for synergies and lay a foundation for meeting the 
challenges noted in the report. The Senior Policy Group noted the 
challenge and critical importance of integrating private sector 
initiatives as part of the broader effort. DHS and the Senior Policy 
Group also agreed that there is a need to continue to improve 
preparedness by developing more specific and improved preparedness 
standards, clearer performance goals, and an improved method for 
tracking regional initiatives. They believe the governance process now 
in place will accomplish essential regional coordination.

Concluding Comments:

Coordinated planning for the use of federal grant funds and monitoring 
the results achieved with those funds are fundamental for assessing and 
building the needed first responder capacity of the region to prepare 
for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from major emergency events in 
the region--whether the result of nature, accident, or terrorist act. 
The urgent nature of the security risk to the National Capital Region 
requires a coordinated, well-planned approach to the expenditure of 
federal first responder grants. To maximize the positive impact of such 
federal dollars, duplication needs to be minimized, available resources 
used to the maximum extent possible, and a strategic, region-wide plan 
based on an assessment of preparedness gaps developed to guide those 
expenditures. Assessments of the current status of emergency 
preparedness and of any existing preparedness gaps require the 
existence and application of various types of standards. DHS's Office 
for National Capital Region Coordination has a significant, statutorily 
mandated role in meeting those requirements. It has made a good first 
step in developing a region-wide plan for the use of the Urban Area 
Initiative Grants. However, information and analysis of planned and 
actual expenditures by local NCR jurisdictions is also needed to 
develop a region-wide plan for the use of federal grants.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer 
any questions you or other members of the Committee may have.

Contacts and Acknowledgments:

For questions regarding this testimony, please contact William O. 
Jenkins, Jr., on (202) 512-8777 or Patricia A. Dalton, Director, on 
(202) 512-6737. Other individuals making key contributions to this 
testimony included Amelia Shachoy, Ernie Hazera, John Bagnulo, and 
Wendy Johnson.

FOOTNOTES

[1] See Homeland Security: Management of First Responder Grants in the 
National Capital Region Reflects the Need for Coordinated Planning and 
Performance Goals, GAO-04-433, (Washington, D.C.: May 28, 2004),

[2] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The Homeland Security 
Advisory Council, A Report from the Task Force on State and Local 
Homeland Security Funding (Washington, D.C.: June 2004), p. 12.

[3] P.L. 107-296 ß882.

[4] The Office of National Capital Region Coordination was also 
mandated to provide state, local, and regional authorities in NCR with 
regular information, research, and technical support to assist the 
efforts of state, local, and regional authorities in NCR in securing 
the homeland; and develop a process for receiving meaningful input from 
state, local, and regional authorities and the private sector in NCR to 
assist in the development of the federal government's homeland security 
plans and activities.