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Highlights

On June 25, 2006, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters building suffered flooding during a period of record rainfall and sustained extensive damage to its infrastructure. IRS officials ordered the closure of the building until December 2006 to allow for repairs to be completed. IRS headquarters officials reported activating several of the agency's emergency operations plans. Within 1 month of the flood, over 2,000 employees normally assigned to the headquarters building were relocated to other facilities throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. GAO was asked to report on (1) how IRS emergency operations plans address federal guidance related to continuity planning and (2) the extent to which IRS emergency operations plans contributed to the actions taken by IRS officials in response to the flood. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed federal continuity guidance, reviewed IRS emergency plans, and interviewed IRS officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service 1. To strengthen the ability of IRS to respond to the full range of potential disruptions to essential operations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise IRS internal emergency planning guidance to fully reflect federal guidance on the elements of a viable continuity capability, including the identification and prioritization of essential functions; the preparation of necessary resources and alternate facilities; and the regular completion of tests, training, and exercises of continuity capabilities.
Closed - Implemented
On September 25, 2008, IRS revised its internal emergency planning guidance. Specifically, IRS replaced section 1.16.10 (Business Resumption") of the Internal Revenue Manual with section 10.2.10, Continuity Planning Requirements. Within the new section, IRS established continuity policies and guidance to be followed by IRS organizations. Elements of the guidance included elements of a viable continuity capability, including identifying and prioritizing mission essential functions; preparing continuity facilities and resources; and developing and completing tests, training, and exercises of continuity capabilities.
Internal Revenue Service 2. To strengthen the ability of IRS to respond to the full range of potential disruptions to essential operations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise IRS emergency plans in accordance with the new internal guidance.
Closed - Implemented
Following the release of new guidance contained within the Internal Revenue Manual, agency officials completed updates to agency continuity plans since March 2010 that included provisions for key continuity elements, including the identification and prioritization of essential functions; the preparation of necessary resources and alternate facilities; and the regular completion of tests, training, and exercises of continuity capabilities.

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