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Testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security, 

U.S. House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT: 

Tuesday, May 9, 2006: 

Federal Emergency Management Agency: 

Factors for Future Success and Issues to Consider for Organizational 
Placement: 

Statement of William O. Jenkins, Jr., Director: 

Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

GAO-06-746T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-746T, a testimony before the Committee on Homeland 
Security, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The size and strength of hurricane Katrina resulted in one of the 
largest natural disasters in our nationís history and raised major 
questions about our nationís readiness and ability to respond to 
catastrophic disasters. GAO has a large body of completed and ongoing 
work on a range of issues relating to all phases of the preparation, 
response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts related to hurricane Katrina 
as well as a wealth of historical experience in reviewing the federal 
governmentís response to disasters and catastrophic events. 

A great deal of attention has been focused on lessons learned from the 
2005 hurricane season and many recommendations have been advanced on 
how to improve the nationís preparedness and ability to effectively 
respond to catastrophic disasters. GAOís testimony today describes some 
factors for success and other issues that Congress may wish to consider 
as it determines what changes to make, including those of the Federal 
Emergency Management Agencyís (FEMA) organizational placement, to 
improve the nationís readiness and ability to respond effectively to 
major disasters, including catastrophic disasters, regardless of cause. 

What GAO Found: 

Because of FEMA's mission performance during hurricane Katrina, 
questions have been raised regarding the agency's organizational 
placement, including whether FEMA should be disbanded and functions 
moved to other agencies, remain within the Department of Homeland 
Security, or again become an independent agency. 

The history of the federal governmentís approach to emergency 
management reflects experience with specific disasters and differences 
in opinion regarding the most effective structure for this function. 
Prior to 1979, emergency management was led by the Federal Disaster 
Assistance Administration within the Department of Housing and Urban 
Development. FEMA was established as an independent agency in 1979. 
Based on recommendations following the response to Hurricane Andrew in 
1992, FEMA was elevated to a cabinet level agency whose director 
reported to the President. In March 2003, FEMA became part of DHS. 

As Comptroller General Walker has noted previously, a number of factors 
may be ultimately more important to FEMA's success in responding to and 
recovering from future disasters than its organizational placement. 
These include 

* the clarity of FEMA's mission and its related responsibilities and 
authorities; 
* the experience of and training provided to FEMA leadership;
* the adequacy of its human, financial, and technological resources; and
* the effectiveness of planning, exercises, and related partnerships. 

As Congress considers changing FEMAís organizational placement, it may 
also wish to consider key issues affecting organizational structure, 
including 

* the relevance of FEMAís mission to the broader organization in which 
it resides; 
* the extent to which goals and objectives are shared; 
* the ability to leverage effectively the resources of other agencies 
and programs; and 
* gains in efficiency and effectiveness through eliminating 
duplications and overlaps. 

The nationís next major response and recovery challenge, whether 
natural or man-made, will provide another important test of FEMAís 
efforts to improve its preparedness and capability. Although 
organizational structure is important, future success is likely to 
principally depend upon focus, skilled leadership, clear roles and 
responsibilities, operational plans realistically exercised, and key 
resources appropriately and effectively deployed. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO is not making recommendations at this time. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-746T]. 

To view the full product, 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 participate in today's hearing to 
discuss the future of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 
My remarks today are grounded in the work GAO has done to date on 
FEMA's performance in the days, weeks, and months after hurricane 
Katrina as well as our completed work on FEMA's role in responding to 
and recovering from prior disasters and catastrophes before and after 
its incorporation into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). My 
remarks are also fully consistent with Comptroller General Walker's 
previous testimony on this subject matter. 

The events of hurricane Katrina graphically demonstrated the 
limitations of the nation's ability to respond to a catastrophic 
disaster. FEMA, within DHS, has the primary responsibility for 
coordinating and implementing key aspects of the federal emergency 
response and, as a result, has come under fire for shortcomings in its 
mission performance after the disaster. Reports from the House, Senate, 
White House, DHS Inspector General, and FEMA all identified problems in 
FEMA's leadership and capabilities in the preparation for, response to, 
and short-term recovery from hurricane Katrina.[Footnote 1] These 
reports, along with our own observations, indicate that there were 
concerns about FEMA's leadership of the federal response and questions 
regarding the missions, roles, and responsibilities of FEMA and other 
federal, state, and local officials and organizations in preparing for 
and responding to hurricane Katrina. FEMA's capabilities were stretched 
to the limit and beyond, as reflected by, for example, a limited 
ability to marshal, transport, and track the delivery of commodities to 
areas of greatest need; difficulties in providing the number of 
emergency response staff with the knowledge and experience to meet the 
needs of thousands of disaster victims; and the inadequate capacity of 
FEMA's information systems. Finally, the reports and our own work 
identified concerns regarding the effectiveness of planning, exercises, 
and related partnerships, functions traditionally supported by FEMA 
emergency preparedness, response, and recovery programs. 

The observations in this statement are based on prior GAO reports, our 
ongoing work on hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and GAO field visits to 
the affected Gulf Coast areas. We also have done a great deal of work 
on prior disasters. In 1993, we conducted several reviews examining the 
federal response to hurricane Andrew. All of these reviews focused on 
the unique challenges involved in responding to catastrophic disasters. 
These reviews defined catastrophic disasters as a subset of other 
disasters requiring federal assistance. Unlike the bulk of disasters 
requiring FEMA to respond, catastrophic disasters can overwhelm the 
ability of state, local, and voluntary agencies to adequately provide 
victims with essential services, such as food and water, within 12 to 
24 hours. We also conducted extensive work following the events of 
September 11, 2001.[Footnote 2] These prior GAO reports focused on 
improving the immediate response to catastrophic disasters, and we made 
various recommendations within this context, many of which continue to 
apply and help form the basis of our views on the issue of FEMA's 
future organizational placement today. 

GAO teams have visited the areas most affected by hurricanes Katrina 
and Rita--Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. We interviewed 
officials and analyzed information from the various involved federal 
agencies, such as FEMA and the Department of Defense (DOD); state and 
local organizations, including state emergency management agencies; 
state adjutant generals; local officials; and representatives from 
nongovernmental agencies. Additionally, we have closely followed the 
hearings conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs Committee, the House's Select Committee to Investigate the 
Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, and other 
congressional committees on hurricane Katrina issues. We have studied 
the House Select Committee report, the White House report on lessons 
learned from the federal response to hurricane Katrina, the Department 
of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, FEMA's 
initial response assessment of the agency's performance during 
hurricane Katrina, as well as the report released last week by the 
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. We 
discussed our preliminary observations with the Deputy Secretary of the 
Department of Homeland Security in March 2006 before testifying on our 
observations of federal preparation, response, and recovery efforts 
related to hurricane Katrina.[Footnote 3] 

Summary: 

A catastrophic disaster, such as hurricane Katrina, almost immediately 
overwhelms state and local response capacity, degrading the ability of 
state and local personnel to respond effectively. Hurricane Katrina 
destroyed or crippled essential communications infrastructure in the 
hardest-hit areas, further exacerbating the ability of state and local 
personnel to respond. In preparing for and responding to any major 
disaster, but particularly a catastrophic one, the roles, 
responsibilities, and lines of authority for the preparation and 
response at all levels of government must be clearly defined and 
communicated in order to facilitate rapid and effective decision 
making. At the same time, effective decision making depends on having 
trained and experienced leaders equipped with the resources and 
capabilities needed to implement those decisions. Capabilities--the 
ability to carry out specific tasks with desired results--are built 
upon the appropriate combination of resources including people, 
processes, funds, and technology. Ensuring that those capabilities are 
available and effective requires planning, coordination, training, and 
exercises in which the capabilities are realistically tested, problems 
identified, and issues subsequently addressed in partnership with other 
federal, state, and local stakeholders. 

Because of FEMA's mission performance during hurricane Katrina, 
questions have been raised regarding the agency's organizational 
placement, including whether it should be disbanded and functions moved 
to other agencies, remain within DHS, or again become an independent 
agency. In our view, taking actions to improve the weaknesses 
identified in after-the-fact analyses of FEMA's performance before, 
during, and after hurricane Katrina may be more important to FEMA's 
success in responding to and aiding the recovery from future disasters, 
most importantly the 2006 hurricane season, than its organizational 
placement. Factors that might affect performance include: 

* the clarity of FEMA's mission and its related responsibilities and 
authorities; 

* the experience of, and training provided to, FEMA leadership; 

* the adequacy of its human, financial, and technological resources; 
and: 

* the effectiveness of planning, exercises, and related partnerships. 

If a change in FEMA's organizational placement is considered, we 
believe certain other issues should be considered to assess alternative 
approaches. These include issues such as mission relevancy and shared 
goals and objectives, as well as leveraging effectiveness and gains 
through consolidation. 

Background: 

In considering FEMA's future, it is useful to understand its past. 
Before the establishment of FEMA and its placement within DHS, federal 
disaster response and recovery was also managed by an agency within an 
executive department. The 1960s and early 1970s brought massive 
disasters requiring major federal response and recovery operations by 
the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, established within the 
Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hurricane Carla struck in 
1962, hurricane Betsy in 1965, hurricane Camille in 1969, and hurricane 
Agnes in 1972. The San Fernando earthquake rocked Southern California 
in 1971, and the Alaskan earthquake hit in 1964. To respond to national 
concern regarding these events, the Congress passed the 1974 Disaster 
Relief Act that established the process of Presidential disaster 
declarations. 

However, emergency and disaster activities were still fragmented. Many 
parallel programs and policies existed at the state and local level, 
compounding the complexity of federal disaster relief efforts. In 1979, 
President Carter issued an executive order that merged many of the 
separate disaster-related responsibilities into a new, independent 
Federal Emergency Management Agency. Among other agencies, FEMA 
absorbed the Federal Insurance Administration, the National Fire 
Prevention and Control Administration, the National Weather Service 
Community Preparedness Program, the Federal Preparedness Agency of the 
General Services Administration, and the Federal Disaster Assistance 
Administration activities from HUD. Civil defense responsibilities were 
also transferred to the new agency from the Defense Department's 
Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. 

FEMA led the federal response to hurricane Andrew, which slammed into 
and leveled much of South Florida in August 1992. In 1993, we conducted 
several reviews examining the federal response. The reviews focused on 
the unique challenges involved in responding to catastrophic disasters 
and raised questions about whether and how national disaster response 
efforts had incorporated lessons from experiences with hurricane Hugo 
in 1989.[Footnote 4] These prior GAO reports focused on improving the 
immediate response to catastrophic disasters, and we made various 
recommendations within this context. While some of our prior 
recommendations were acted upon, others were not. For example, 
President Clinton elevated the FEMA director to cabinet status in 1996, 
providing the type of direct communication and lines of responsibility 
we had recommended. However, we also recommended that FEMA improve its 
catastrophic disaster response capability by using existing authority 
to aggressively respond to catastrophic disasters, assessing the extent 
of the damage, and then advising state and local officials of 
identified needs and the federal resources available to address them. 
One criticism of the FEMA response to hurricane Katrina was that FEMA 
officials were more reactive than proactive in identifying the 
emergency needs of communities in the immediate days after the 
disaster. 

The Homeland Security Act of 2002,[Footnote 5] which established DHS, 
created new requirements for emergency preparedness and response, 
including developing a comprehensive National Incident Management 
System (NIMS) and a comprehensive National Response Plan (NRP). NIMS is 
intended to provide a consistent framework for incident management at 
all jurisdictional levels regardless of the cause, size, or complexity 
of the situation and to define the roles and responsibilities of 
federal, state, and local governments and various first responder 
disciplines at each level during an emergency event. NIMS established 
the Incident Command System (ICS) as a standard incident management 
organization with five functional areas--command, operations, planning, 
logistics, and finance/administration--for management of all major 
incidents. It also prescribes interoperable communications systems and 
preparedness before an incident happens, including planning, training, 
and exercises. The NRP is intended to be an all- discipline, all-
hazards plan establishing a single, comprehensive framework for the 
management of domestic incidents where federal involvement is 
necessary. It is to operate within the framework of NIMS. 

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of DHS pursuant to the Homeland 
Security Act of 2002. FEMA retained its authority to administer the 
provisions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency 
Assistance Act (the Stafford Act),[Footnote 6] which sets forth the 
primary programs and processes for the federal government to provide 
major disaster and emergency assistance to states, local governments, 
tribal nations, individuals, and qualified private nonprofit 
organizations. Among its missions within DHS, FEMA is to lead the 
effort to prepare the nation for natural and man-made disasters and 
effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any 
presidentially declared incident. FEMA is also to initiate proactive 
mitigation activities, train first responders, and manage the National 
Flood Insurance Program. FEMA shares responsibility for preparing the 
nation for natural and man-made disasters with other organizations 
within DHS, including the Office of Grants and Training that 
administers federal homeland security grants for state and local first 
responders. 

Factors Other Than Organizational Placement May Affect FEMA's 
Performance: 

Organizational changes, such as separating FEMA from DHS, are often 
viewed as a fix to address performance issues. Our institutional 
knowledge regarding organizational performance factors suggests that 
organizational changes alone may not adequately address underlying 
systemic conditions that result in an organization's performance 
problem. Hurricane Katrina was one of the largest natural disasters in 
our nation's history; its size and strength will have effects for years 
to come. It exacted terrible human costs with the loss of significant 
numbers of lives and resulted in billions of dollars in property 
damage, clearly overwhelming the capabilities of several federal, 
state, and local agencies. Nevertheless, after-the-fact analyses point 
to improvements needed in (1) the clarity of FEMA's mission and related 
responsibilities and authorities to achieve mission performance 
expectations; (2) the experience and training of FEMA leadership; (3) 
the adequacy of FEMA's human, financial, and technological resources; 
and (4) the effectiveness of FEMA's planning, exercises, and related 
partnerships. If successfully implemented, such improvements may 
obviate the need for major organizational changes. 

Clarity of FEMA's Mission and Related Responsibilities and Authorities: 

In the event of a catastrophic disaster, the leadership roles, 
responsibilities, and lines of authority for the response at all levels 
must be clearly defined and effectively communicated in order to 
facilitate rapid and effective decision making, especially in preparing 
for and in the early hours and days after the disaster. In the 
aftermath of hurricane Andrew in 1992, we discussed the critical 
importance of clearly defining and communicating leadership roles, 
responsibilities, and lines of authority for catastrophic response in 
advance of such events. Based on our assessments of the federal 
response, we recommended that in a catastrophic disaster a single 
individual directly responsible and accountable to the President should 
be designated to act as the central focal point to lead and coordinate 
the overall federal response when a catastrophic disaster has happened 
or is imminent. President Clinton's elevation of the position of FEMA 
director to cabinet status in 1996 provided the direct lines of 
communication and accountability envisioned in our recommendation. The 
subsequent incorporation of FEMA into DHS changed the direct reporting 
relationship between FEMA and the President. With the passage and 
subsequent implementation of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the 
Secretary of DHS, rather than the FEMA Director, became the cabinet- 
level focal point for natural and man-made crises and emergency 
planning. The incorporation of FEMA into DHS raised questions during 
hurricane Katrina regarding lines of authority with respect to not only 
the DHS Secretary and the FEMA Director, but also the key officials 
reporting to them, the Principal Federal Official (PFO) and the Federal 
Coordinating Officer (FCO), respectively. 

During incidents of national significance, including catastrophic 
disasters, the overall coordination of federal incident management 
activities is executed through the Secretary of Homeland Security under 
the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Homeland Security Presidential 
Directive-5 (HSPD-5), and the NRP. There are three key leadership roles 
defined under the NRP needed to manage a catastrophic disaster. First, 
the role of the Secretary of Homeland Security is to provide strategic, 
national leadership as the focal point for federal response and 
coordination. Second, the role of the PFO is to act as the Secretary of 
Homeland Security's formally designated representative locally to 
oversee, coordinate, and execute the secretary's incident management 
responsibilities. Third, the FCO is a position created by the Stafford 
Act and is appointed by the FEMA Director to manage federal resource 
support activities related to Stafford Act disasters and emergencies. 
The FCO is responsible for coordinating the timely delivery of federal 
disaster assistance resources and programs to the affected localities 
by making mission assignments to specific federal agencies that have 
needed resources and capabilities. 

FEMA's incorporation into DHS appears to have introduced some 
uncertainty regarding the respective roles and responsibilities of the 
DHS secretary and the PFO relative to the FEMA director and the FCO. 
The questions raised by the various assessments of the federal response 
during hurricane Katrina highlight the importance of clarity in FEMA's 
mission and related responsibilities and authorities, as the following 
examples illustrate: 

* The White House report recommended that the PFO be given operational 
authority to manage and coordinate federal response, assets and, in a 
multi-state disaster, to oversee the multiple federal coordinating 
officers operating in the various states and make any operational 
decisions necessary, within the law, without having to obtain approval 
from headquarters. 

* The DHS OIG recommended that FEMA clarify the roles of the PFO, the 
FCO, the Federal Resource Coordinator, and the Disaster Recovery 
Manager to provide a clear distinction for the types and levels of 
response activities that warrant a combination or modification to those 
roles; develop procedures for the timely activation of each role; and, 
ensure that these officials be provided with the necessary training to 
complement their qualifications for serving in these positions. 
Similarly, the OIG recommended that FEMA establish clear roles and 
responsibilities for the Housing Area Command and define its reporting 
requirements and chain of command relationships with the FEMA 
headquarters, Joint Field Offices, and Technical Assistance 
Contractors. 

* FEMA's internal assessment identified the need for senior management 
to develop doctrine to provide a single, simplified command structure 
for operations in temporary joint field offices created to lead federal 
response and recovery efforts. 

* The Senate report recommended that the Stafford Act should be amended 
to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the FCO, and the NRP 
should be revised to eliminate the PFO position for Stafford Act- 
declared emergencies and disasters. 

More explicit authority is needed to enhance federal leadership in 
situations when it is possible to respond to incidents maturing to 
catastrophic magnitude in a more proactive manner. In our July 1993 
report on the federal response to hurricane Andrew, we also noted that 
encouraging agencies to do as much catastrophic disaster preparation as 
possible in advance of a Stafford Act declaration could reduce the 
federal response time to the ensuing catastrophe. We stated that when 
there is early warning, as there usually is with hurricanes, federal 
agencies must mobilize resources and deploy personnel before the 
catastrophe strikes. However, the Stafford Act did not, and still does 
not, explicitly authorize such predeclaration activities. As a result, 
federal agencies may fail to undertake extensive predeclaration 
preparations because of uncertainty over whether FEMA will request 
their assistance under the Stafford Act and ultimately reimburse their 
predeclaration costs. Therefore, we continue to believe that Congress 
should consider giving federal agencies, including FEMA, explicit 
authority under the Stafford Act to take actions to prepare for a 
catastrophic disaster when there is warning. 

Experience and Training of FEMA Leadership: 

In order to effectively fulfill the leadership roles and 
responsibilities and to exercise lines of authority for the response at 
all levels to facilitate rapid and effective decision making in the 
event of a catastrophic disaster, leaders should have the experience 
and training needed to perform effectively, especially in the early 
hours and days after the disaster. In the aftermath of hurricane Andrew 
in 1992, we discussed the critical importance of the quality of 
leadership during catastrophic disasters. For example, we noted that 
leadership creates a powerful, meaningful perception that the federal 
government recognizes an event is catastrophic, is in control, and is 
going to use every means necessary to meet the immediate mass-care 
needs of disaster victims. Assessments of FEMA's performance during and 
after hurricane Katrina have raised similar issues and resulted in 
recommendations related to the experience and training of FEMA 
leadership, as illustrated in the following examples: 

* The House Select Committee concluded that federal agencies, including 
DHS, had varying degrees of unfamiliarity with their roles and 
responsibilities under the NRP and NIMS. According to the Committee's 
report, senior officials were ill-prepared due to their lack of 
experience and knowledge of the required roles and responsibilities 
prescribed by the NRP, and FEMA lacked adequately trained and 
experienced staff for the hurricane Katrina response. The report noted 
that, since 2002, FEMA had lost a number of its top disaster 
specialists, senior leaders, and experienced personnel and that even 
before hurricane Katrina, FEMA suffered from a lack of sufficiently 
trained procurement professionals. 

* The White House report included recommendations to enhance DHS 
expertise and experience and to develop DHS regions that would be fully 
staffed, trained, and equipped to manage and coordinate all 
preparedness activities and any emergency that may require a 
substantial federal response. The report also recommended the 
establishment of a formal training program on the NIMS and NRP for all 
department and agency personnel with incident management 
responsibilities, noting that each Regional Director should have 
significant expertise and experience, core competency in emergency 
preparedness and incident management, and demonstrated leadership 
ability. 

* FEMA's assessment of the agency's performance during and after 
hurricane Katrina resulted in a recommendation that emergency 
management personnel at all levels should be required to have training 
on ICS and the NRP and recommended the creation of a rotational 
training program for field personnel to spend time at FEMA headquarters 
and for FEMA managers at headquarters to train in the field on 
simulated and actual disaster events. The assessment also recommended 
that FEMA identify and name qualified personnel with leadership ability 
and emergency response experience as FEMA liaison officers for 
counties, parishes, or boroughs in advance of disasters. Further, it 
recommended a more comprehensive training program to prepare existing 
and new personnel for Disaster Recovery Center assignments. 

* The Senate report concluded that training and exercises were needed 
to ensure that everyone involved in disaster response understands their 
roles and responsibilities and is prepared to carry them out. 

Adequacy of FEMA's Human, Financial, and Technological Resources: 

Even trained and experienced leaders who share a clear and common 
understanding of their mission and authorities across a community of 
federal, state, and local emergency management officials cannot 
effectively implement those authorities or exercise leadership without 
access to the human, financial, and technological resources needed to 
take action. For noncatastrophic disasters, the federal government 
should be in a support and assist role, providing resources and other 
assistance to enable state and local governments to carry out their 
responsibilities. However, for catastrophic disasters that can 
overwhelm the ability of state and local and voluntary agencies to 
adequately provide victims with essential services, the federal 
government should be more proactive, anticipating state and local 
needs, pre-positioning resources, and providing selected resources 
where they are needed or likely to be needed. The federal government 
must develop more capabilities and expertise to respond proactively 
when a catastrophic disaster is imminent or occurs. 

When we reviewed FEMA's response to hurricane Andrew in 1992, we 
concluded that FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate had many of the 
people and resources needed, with people skilled in such areas as 
strategic and tactical planning, logistics, command and control, and 
communications, and resources including communications, transportation, 
life support, as well as sophisticated computer- modeling equipment. At 
that time we reported that, through constant planning and exercising, 
the directorate had maintained a high level of readiness and was able 
to quickly deploy people and resources from a number of locations to 
anywhere in the United States (although we identified a number of 
shortcomings in FEMA's response that primarily reflected the magnitude 
of the disaster.) Unfortunately, the various reports and our own work 
on FEMA's performance before, during, and after hurricane Katrina 
suggest that FEMA's human, financial, and technological resources were 
insufficient to meet the challenges posed by the unprecedented degree 
of damage and the resulting number of disaster victims of the 
hurricane, as the following examples illustrate: 

* The Senate's report concluded that FEMA did not have the resources to 
fulfill the mission and respond effectively in a catastrophic event and 
recommended that DHS must develop the national capabilities--especially 
surge capacity--it needs to respond to catastrophic disasters, ensuring 
it has sufficient full-time staff, response teams, contracting 
personnel, and adequately trained and sufficiently staffed reserve 
corps to ramp up capabilities, as needed. In terms of technology, the 
Senate report recommended that DHS complete and/or adopt technology and 
information management systems to effectively manage disaster-related 
activities and develop an efficient ordering system that minimizes 
delays and provides order status and accurate, timely commodity 
tracking as well as a transportation protocol that moves commodities 
and resources directly from the supplier to the users. The report 
concluded that resources are needed for staffing and preparation of 
regional strike teams, better development of a trained cadre of 
reservists, and the development of new logistics capabilities. 

* DHS's OIG report included a number of recommendations related to 
enhancing human and technological resources and capabilities. The 
recommendations directed FEMA to: 

* develop a disaster workforce plan for standing capability for 
permanent, temporary, and reserve staff responsive to previous disaster 
needs and also develop a plan that is scalable to other events 
irrespective of cause, size, or complexity; 

* provide training to additional National Processing Service Center 
staff and contractors to enhance FEMA's capability to perform applicant 
assistance and case management activities responsive to the needs of 
applications; 

* develop a more comprehensive program to recruit, train, and retain 
local hires for use in augmenting FEMA's disaster assistance employees 
and permanent staff; 

* determine and fill requirements to provide emergency responders with 
communications equipment capable of performing in austere conditions; 
and: 

* develop and implement a resource-tracking system that is capable of 
documenting whether resources were delivered and the efficiency with 
which the resource was provided. 

* FEMA's initial response assessment concluded that the agency needs to 
lead an audit of current staffing capability and workforce demands for 
staff in a severe or catastrophic event and determine the number of 
personnel available to serve in each position or unit for such a 
disaster. This information is to be used to develop and implement a 
strategy for addressing any identified staffing gaps. The assessment 
also concluded that FEMA needs to develop a communications suite that 
operates independently of normal communications infrastructure and is 
able to be moved into disaster locations. 

* The White House report identified the need for each homeland security 
region to have access to the resources, equipment, and personnel needed 
to establish a self-sufficient temporary Joint Field Office to direct 
response and recovery efforts anywhere within the region. 

* The House Select Committee also concluded that despite extensive 
preparedness initiatives, DHS was not prepared to respond to the 
catastrophic effects of hurricane Katrina. For example, the report 
noted that FEMA's logistics and contracting systems did not support a 
targeted, massive, and sustained provision of commodities; long- 
standing weaknesses and the magnitude of the disaster overwhelmed 
FEMA's ability to provide emergency shelter and temporary housing; and 
the readiness of FEMA's national emergency response teams was 
inadequate and reduced the effectiveness of the federal response. 

Effectiveness of FEMA's Planning, Exercises, and Related Partnerships: 

Fewer federal resources are needed to respond to a catastrophic 
disaster if state and local governments' response capabilities are 
greater. The goal of emergency planning is simple: to have the skills 
and resources to respond, when needed, with well-planned, well- 
coordinated, and effective efforts to save lives and property and aid 
recovery from the emergency or disaster--regardless of the size or 
nature of the emergency. However, because FEMA is not a first 
responder, state and local government officials and emergency and 
homeland security managers must take the lead in developing strategic 
and operational plans and identifying the basic capabilities each 
jurisdiction might need to meet local, regional, and state prevention, 
mitigation, response, and recovery expectations--whether defined by 
federal guidance or by state and local assessments. That is because 
local officials are most knowledgeable of their communities, including 
their needs and capabilities. In addition, local emergency first 
responders--police, fire fighters, emergency medical personnel, and 
others such as public health and hospital personnel--will still be the 
first on the scene of an incident. 

Regular training and periodic exercises provide a valuable way to test 
emergency management plans. It is important that exercises be designed 
to be both as realistic as possible and stress the emergency management 
system as almost any major event will. The training should also be 
linked to the essential capabilities and emphasize identifying, 
developing, and sustaining baseline capabilities for prevention, 
preparedness, response, and recovery. This would involve defining 
baseline capabilities at each level of government--federal, regional, 
state, and local--and surge capabilities in the event of a catastrophic 
disaster, based on risk to an individual jurisdiction and what would be 
required to support mutual aid compacts. 

In our previous work on hurricane Andrew, we identified the critical 
importance of conducting strong advance planning and robust training 
and exercise programs and the need for the federal government to 
upgrade training and exercises for state and local governments 
specifically geared toward catastrophic disaster response. Our review 
uncovered shortcomings both in the way FEMA helps state and local 
governments train and conduct exercises in anticipation of catastrophic 
disasters and in the way it monitors state and local preparedness. 
Thus, we concluded that FEMA could do more to ensure that state and 
local governments prepare for catastrophic disaster response. 

Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the potential benefits of applying 
lessons learned from training exercises and experiences with actual 
hurricanes as well as the dangers of ignoring them. For example, 
confusion with emergency plans complicated the evacuations and 
everything that followed. Clearly, plans were not implemented or were 
only partially implemented, and state officials requested aid early but 
in some cases were slow to deploy their own resources. Our own work and 
assessments of FEMA's performance during and after hurricane Katrina 
have made a variety of recommendations intended to improve the 
effectiveness of federal planning, exercises, and related partnerships, 
as the following examples show: 

* The White House report recommended that DHS (1) develop and implement 
homeland security regions that are fully staffed, trained, and equipped 
to manage and coordinate all preparedness activities and any emergency 
that may require a substantial federal response and (2) conduct 
training and exercises for key state and local officials. 

* The Senate report recommended that (1) national emergency response 
plans be reviewed and coordinated with the states and on a regional 
basis to ensure the plans are understood, trained, and exercised prior 
to an emergency; (2) officials in emergency agencies at the federal, 
state, and local levels of government, as well as first responder 
groups outside of government receive regular training on NRP and NIMS; 
(3) DHS consider tying future cost-share requirements for preparedness 
grant funds to performance and results of these exercises; (4) DHS 
establish regional strike teams and enhance regional operations-- 
building on FEMA's 10 existing regional offices--to provide better 
coordination between federal agencies and the states in preparing for 
and responding to disasters; and (5) resources be provided for 
additional planning and more frequent and ambitious training and 
exercises. 

* The DHS OIG report recommended that FEMA (1) develop and implement a 
system that automates and tracks the selection, deployment, training, 
and demobilization of responders; (2) develop more effective and 
efficient plans for the delivery of assistance to address long-term 
housing issues, and test these plans in a simulated environment before 
application in actual disasters; (3) request an appropriation or 
provide other funding, resources, and institutional support to agency 
components and to state and local partners to complete draft or 
proposed catastrophic planning initiatives for natural disasters; (4) 
develop a formal mechanism to ensure continuity between preparedness, 
response, and recovery by including FEMA regional staff in the 
Preparedness Directorate's relationships with state emergency 
management agencies for grants, exercises, planning, technical 
assistance, and training. 

* The House report observed that the hurricane Pam exercise reflected 
recognition by all levels of government of the dangers of a category 4 
or 5 hurricane striking New Orleans. Implementation of lessons learned 
from hurricane Pam was incomplete. 

* FEMA's initial assessment concluded that FEMA must develop a concept 
of operations for logistically supporting Emergency Management 
Assistance Compact resources that are requested for disaster response 
efforts. 

In summary, the difficulties described above would not, we believe, be 
fixed by simply moving FEMA to an independent status. Indeed, we know 
that many of lessons learned from hurricane Katrina were acted on for 
hurricane Rita, with a much better response effort, indicating that 
organizational change is not the primary key to success. 

Taking actions to improve these operational weaknesses in FEMA's 
performance before, during, and after hurricane Katrina may be more 
important to FEMA's success in responding to and recovering from the 
next hurricane season, than its organizational placement. Of course, 
FEMA will need financial and other resources to address the problems 
that have been identified in the wake of hurricane Katrina. 

Issues for Consideration of a Change in FEMA's Organizational 
Placement: 

A number of alternative organizational changes are now being considered 
in response to hurricane Katrina. For example, the White House report 
recommended keeping FEMA within DHS, but would preserve FEMA as an 
independent operating agency to perform its response and recovery 
mission while making other organizational changes, such as transferring 
the National Disaster Medical System from DHS to the Department of 
Health and Human Services. The Senate report recommended creation of a 
new, comprehensive emergency management organization within DHS that 
would fuse DHS's emergency management, preparedness, and critical 
infrastructure assets into a new organization. Other observers have 
proposed removing FEMA from DHS completely. 

If an organizational change remains under consideration, our past work 
could be helpful. Before the formation of DHS, the Comptroller General 
testified before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security that 
reorganizations of government agencies frequently encounter start-up 
problems and unanticipated consequences and are unlikely to fully 
overcome obstacles and challenges and may require additional 
modifications in the future.[Footnote 7] He also asked a number of 
questions related to mission relevancy and shared goals and leveraging 
effectiveness and gains through consolidation that could be used to 
evaluate whether individual agencies or programs should be included or 
excluded from the proposed department. Some of these questions are 
appropriate today for discussing FEMA's future, and I would suggest 
that they might be useful if a change in FEMA's organizational 
placement is under consideration. 

Mission relevancy and shared goals: 

* Is homeland security a major part of the agency or program mission? 
Is it the primary mission of the agency or program? 

* Does the agency or program being considered for the new department 
share primary goals and objectives with the other agencies or programs 
being consolidated? 

Congress might consider whether or how moving FEMA out of DHS would 
impact DHS's mission, as stated in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, 
of acting as a focal point for natural and man-made crises and 
emergency planning. DHS's Emergency Preparedness and Response 
Directorate--primarily FEMA--was to help ensure the effectiveness of 
emergency response providers to terrorist attacks, major disasters, and 
other emergencies. Removing FEMA from DHS might impact the ability of 
the department and its remaining components and FEMA itself in fully 
addressing the close links between preparedness, prevention, response, 
and recovery for all hazards. 

Leverage Effectiveness and Gains Through Consolidation: 

* Does the agency or program being considered for the new department 
create synergy and help to leverage the effectiveness of other agencies 
and programs or the new department as a whole? 

* Does the agency or program being considered for the new department 
improve the efficiency and effectiveness of homeland security missions 
through eliminating duplications and overlaps, closing gaps, and 
aligning or merging common roles and responsibilities? 

The dispersion of responsibility for preparedness and response across 
more than one federal agency was a problem we identified during the 
formation of DHS.[Footnote 8] As I mentioned earlier, FEMA was 
established in 1979 to consolidate federal emergency preparedness 
mitigation and response in a single federal agency. Its 
responsibilities were to include, among other things, the coordination 
of civil defense and civil emergency planning and the coordination of 
federal disaster relief. FEMA was responsible for responding to a wide 
range of disasters, including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, 
hazardous material accidents, nuclear accidents, and biological, 
chemical, and nuclear attacks.[Footnote 9] However, when Congress 
created DHS, it separated FEMA's responsibilities for preparedness and 
response activities into two directorates. Responsibility for 
preparedness for terrorism disasters was placed in the department's 
Border and Transportation Security Directorate, which included FEMA's 
Office of National Preparedness. Other types of FEMA disaster 
preparedness and response efforts were transferred to the department's 
Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. In January 2003, we 
observed that this organizational arrangement would challenge FEMA in 
ensuring the effective coordination of preparedness and response 
efforts and enhancing the provision and management of disaster 
assistance for efficient and effective response.[Footnote 10] 

A division of responsibility remains under the recent DHS 
reorganization resulting from Secretary Chertoff's Second Stage Review 
with preparedness efforts--including planning, training, exercising, 
and funding--consolidated into a Preparedness Directorate. FEMA reports 
directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security for response and 
recovery missions. Secretary Chertoff has stated the reorganization 
would focus FEMA on its historic mission of response and recovery. We 
believe this division of responsibility should be reconsidered. 

Concluding Observations: 

The next response and recovery challenge this nation will face, whether 
natural or man-made, will provide another important test of FEMA's 
efforts to improve its preparedness and capability. To encourage 
agility and innovation in preparing for the next major disaster event, 
focused, skilled leadership is essential, and these leaders must have 
clear operational plans, realistically exercised, evaluated, and 
adapted with key resources identified, provided, and appropriately 
deployed. Organizational changes, while important, may not by 
themselves necessarily produce these desired results. Incentives and 
sanctions are also important as well as the responsibilities and 
resource commitments of all levels of government and nongovernment 
entities. 

As the administration and the Congress assess if further organizational 
changes are immediately necessary, we suggest they use the questions 
discussed above as a basis for consideration to evaluate whether 
individual agencies or programs, including FEMA, should be included or 
excluded from DHS. 

This concludes my statement. I would be pleased to respond to any 
questions that you or other members of the committee may have at this 
time. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] These reports are: House Select Committee, A Failure of Initiative: 
Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the 
Preparation For and Response to Hurricane Katrina (Washington, D.C.: 
February 2006); The White House, The Federal Response to Hurricane 
Katrina Lessons Learned (Washington, D.C.: February 2006); DHS Office 
of Inspector General, A Performance Review of FEMA's Disaster 
Management Activities in Response to Hurricane Katrina (Washington, 
D.C.: March 2006); FEMA, DHS/FEMA Initial Response Hotwash: Hurricane 
Katrina in Louisiana (Washington, D.C.: February 2006); and Senate 
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Hurricane Katrina: A Nation 
Still Unprepared (Washington, D.C.: May 2006). 

[2] GAO, Disaster Assistance: Information on FEMA's Post 9/11 Public 
Assistance to the New York City Area, GAO-03-926 (Washington, D.C.: 
Aug. 29, 2003) and GAO, September 11: Overview of Federal Disaster 
Assistance to the New York City Area, GAO-04-72 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 
31, 2003). 

[3] GAO, Hurricane Katrina: GAO's Preliminary Observations Regarding 
Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, GAO-06-442T (Washington, D.C.: 
Mar. 8, 2006). 

[4] See, for example, GAO, Disaster Management: Improving the Nation's 
Response to Catastrophic Disasters, GAO-93-186 (Washington, D.C.: July 
23, 1993) and GAO, Disaster Management: Recent Disasters Demonstrate 
the Need to Improve the Nation's Response Strategy, GAO-93-46 
(Washington, D.C.: May 25, 1993). 

[5] Pub. L. No. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135 (2002). 

[6] 42 U.S.C. ßß 5121-5206. 

[7] GAO, Homeland Security: Critical Design and Implementation Issues, 
GAO-02-957T (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 2002). 

[8] GAO, Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of 
Homeland Security, GAO-03-102 (Washington, D.C.: January 2003). 

[9] GAO, Disaster Management: Improving the Nation's Response to 
Catastrophic Disasters, GAO/RCED-93-186 (Washington, D.C.: July 23, 
1993). 

[10] GAO, Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Federal 
Emergency Management Agency, GAO-03-113 (Washington, D.C.: January 
2003).

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