Disaster Assistance:

DOD's Support for Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki and Typhoon Omar

NSIAD-93-180: Published: Jun 18, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the military services' and National Guard's provision of humanitarian services following Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki and Typhoon Omar, focusing on: (1) the roles and missions of the active military and National Guard forces that provided assistance; (2) problems affecting the delivery of assistance; (3) how participation affected the units' readiness and training; (4) whether the military needs to reorient its roles, training, equipment, and doctrine for these operations; and (5) the cost and sources of funding associated with the military's participation in disaster assistance operations.

GAO found that: (1) the active military forces deployed to the disaster areas performed humanitarian services such as providing temporary housing and medical services and assisting in facility repair and debris removal; (2) Hurricane Andrew was the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) first opportunity to test its Federal Response Plan; (3) there were problems in implementing the plan, primarily due to the need for better coordination among providers, improved damage assessments, and better needs determinations in catastrophic situations; (4) according to Department of Defense (DOD) officials, the overall readiness of the forces was not adversely affected by short-term deployment for disaster assistance; (5) if deployments had been extended and units had missed scheduled training rotations, readiness could have been degraded; (6) DOD has the resources, equipment, personnel, and capability to respond rapidly to disasters, but DOD officials believe they should not have overall management responsibility for directing disaster relief efforts; and (7) DOD and the Corps of Engineers estimated that the total cost of disaster assistance they provided was about $559 million.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not acted on this matter for consideration. In view of the time that has passed since the report was issued, it is unlikely that Congress will take any action on this matter.

    Matter: In order to improve DOD ability to respond to catastrophic events, Congress may wish to consider amending title 10 of the United States Code to allow reserve component units to be activated to provide disaster assistance.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This issue is being addressed in a bill being introduced by Senator Glenn in the 103rd Congress. Therefore, regardless of what action is taken on the bill, the recommendation should not remain in an open status.

    Matter: In order to improve DOD ability to respond to catastrophic events, Congress may wish to consider providing explicit authority in the Stafford Act for DOD to incur reimbursable pre-declaration costs for functions that would enhance its response capabilities when there is advance warning of an impending catastrophic disaster.

 

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