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Highlights

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is a collaborative arrangement among member states that provides a legal framework for requesting resources. Working alongside federal players, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard Bureau, EMAC members deployed an unprecedented level of assistance in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Although EMAC played a critical role in our nation's response to these hurricanes, the magnitude of these events revealed limitations. GAO was asked to (1) examine how the use of EMAC has changed since its inception; (2) assess how well existing policies, procedures, and practices facilitate collaboration; and (3) evaluate the adequacy of the EMAC network's administrative capacity to achieve its mission. GAO examined documents and interviewed officials from 45 federal, state, and local agencies and offices.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To further enhance the administrative capacity required to support the EMAC network, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA to look for ways to build the administrative capacity required to support the EMAC network, such as cooperative agreements, grants, and training initiatives.
Closed - Implemented
FEMA is addressing this recommendation in several ways. For example, FEMA's National Integration Center has put in place a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments and the National Emergency Management Association to expand the EMAC network's resource management systems with the purpose of helping to provide a comprehensive framework for managing resources that contribute to national emergency capacity. In addition, FEMA has also made available on the web interactive, computer-based courses aimed at federal, state, tribal, local, and nongovernmental personnel in order to improve understanding and awareness of these systems and to improve incident response. In light of these actions, FEMA has met the intent of this recommendation.
Department of Homeland Security In situations involving catastrophic disasters that require significant assistance from several states and in turn increase the financial and administrative burdens on EMAC members, the Secretary of Homeland Security should develop guidance for impacted states to efficiently seek and obtain advance funding through expedited project worksheets to facilitate more expedited reimbursement for those states providing assistance through EMAC to impacted areas.
Closed - Not Implemented
Despite repeated requests by GAO for details regarding steps taken in response to this recommendation, FEMA officials could not provide evidence that it had been addressed.
Department of Homeland Security In situations involving catastrophic disasters that require significant assistance from several states and in turn increase the financial and administrative burdens on EMAC members, the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security should work together to amend the National Response Plan's Catastrophic Incident Supplement Execution Schedule to include early consideration of the use of Title 32 in situations where the Secretary of Defense deems it appropriate.
Closed - Not Implemented
Although DHS/FEMA initially concurred with this recommendation, since the Department of Defense has non-concurred and the recommendation states that DHS and DOD should work together on amending the Catastrophic Incident execution schedule, DHS has not taken any action.
Department of Defense In situations involving catastrophic disasters that require significant assistance from several states and in turn increase the financial and administrative burdens on EMAC members, the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security should work together to amend the National Response Plan's Catastrophic Incident Supplement Execution Schedule to include early consideration of the use of Title 32 in situations where the Secretary of Defense deems it appropriate.
Closed - Not Implemented
In a September 26, 2007, letter to GAO, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs conveyed the department's official response to our final report and to the recommendation contained therein. The Assistant Secretary stated that the department's previous position of not concurring with our recommendation, conveyed to us during agency comments, has not changed.

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