National Capital Region:

2010 Strategic Plan is Generally Consistent with Characteristics of Effective Strategies

GAO-12-276T: Published: Dec 7, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 7, 2011.

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This testimony discusses the status of efforts to enhance emergency preparedness in the National Capital Region (NCR). The NCR is a partnership among the District of Columbia, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, area local governments, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office for National Capital Region Coordination (NCRC) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and nonprofit organizations and private sector interests. The partnership aims to help the region prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from "all-hazards" threats or events. Gridlock and hazardous conditions during recent events like the January 26, 2011, snow and ice storm and the August 23, 2011, earthquake demonstrate the importance of regional communication and coordination in the NCR and that challenges remain. Well-crafted and executed operational plans are critical for effective response to emergencies, but sound strategic planning is also important. A coordinated strategy to establish and monitor the achievement of regional goals and priorities is fundamental to enhancing emergency preparedness and response capabilities in the NCR. We reported on this issue repeatedly from 2004 through 2006. This testimony focuses on the extent to which strategic planning for NCR preparedness is consistent with characteristics we have previously identified as desirable for strategies for complex undertakings, such as NCR preparedness. This statement is based on work we recently completed for Congress.

The 2010 NCR strategic plan, when accompanied by its supporting documents--investment plans, work plans, and a Performance Management Plan--collectively referred to in this statement as the NCR strategy, is largely consistent with the six characteristics of a strategy that we advocated for complex homeland-security undertakings where multiple organizations must act together to achieve goals and objectives. However, neither the Performance Management Plan nor the investment plans have yet been finalized; decisions remain regarding how the NCR will conduct future regional risk assessments; and it is not clear that NCR has systematic processes in place to identify the full range of resources available to support its goals. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that strategies themselves are not endpoints, but rather, starting points. As with any strategic planning effort, implementation is the key. The ultimate measure of the 2010 NCR strategy's value is how useful it is as guidance for policymakers and decisionmakers in allocating resources and balancing priorities.

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