Consolidation of Federal Assistance Resources Will Enhance the Federal/State Emergency Management Effort

GGD-83-92: Published: Aug 30, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 30, 1983.

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GAO discussed the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) need for consolidation of federal assistance resources for emergency management and reviewed the agency's Comprehensive Cooperative Agreement (CCA) initiative.

A total of 15 separate FEMA categorical planning and preparedness programs were funded at $83 million in fiscal year (FY) 1982 and $90 million in 1983. GAO believes that the fragmentation spawned by most of these 15 programs frustrates states' full achievement of national emergency management or civil defense goals. The programs are too often narrowly defined and states cannot transfer funds between them. GAO stated that the categorical assistance structure promotes costly and inefficient program administration. Specifically, GAO found that categorical programs encourage states to perform overlapping planning and to duplicate emergency management activities. States sometimes overcame the categorical restrictions by undertaking a comprehensive and coordinated management effort. However, these practices could be curtailed if FEMA requirements were strictly enforced. In recognition of the constraints of the categorical structure, FEMA initiated CCA, which gives states discretion in achieving program objectives. While CCA limits the ability of FEMA to hold states accountable for categorical programs, FEMA is still held accountable by Congress for spending appropriated funds in the categorical manner. GAO believes that a consolidated assistance program that retains state accountability for achieving federal objectives would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal/state emergency management effort.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FEMA has decided not to prepare a legislative proposal. It is satisfied that the administrative consolidation has accomplished what it wants. Legislative change would cause too many political problems with congressional committees.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should prepare a legislative proposal to remove statutory restrictions which currently prevent or complicate the consolidation of related planning and preparedness programs.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Limited exemption was not sought to the reprogramming restriction. In addition, several formerly separate programs were consolidated for budget purposes.

    Recommendation: Pending preparation and approval of a legislative consolidation proposal, the Director, FEMA, should reinforce the administrative consolidation initiative by seeking congressional approval for limited exemption from reprogramming restrictions; and by identifying and, to the extent practicable, consolidating related programs presently unconstrained by statutory requirements into one budget program element.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FEMA developed measurable objectives and a realistic sanction system as part of CCA.

    Recommendation: To further reinforce the administrative consolidation and in preparation for the more fundamental legislative consolidation, the Director, FEMA, should also enhance the agency's capacity to implement a more results-oriented approach to holding states accountable for achieving federal objectives by: (1) specifying in measurable terms all program objectives and evaluation criteria; (2) improving monitoring and evaluation of state performance in achieving program objectives; and (3) developing and communicating to the states a realistic sanction system.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FY 1985 CCA applications require states to identify other federal programs funding the objectives of FEMA programs and explain the relationships between these programs and FEMA assistance programs.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should also require each state, in its application for consolidated assistance, to specify how federal emergency management programs funded by other federal agencies relate to CCA and, when implemented, the consolidated FEMA program.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency


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