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National Response Framework: FEMA Needs Policies and Procedures to Better Integrate Non-Federal Stakeholders in the Revision Process

GAO-08-768 Published: Jun 11, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2008.
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Hurricane Katrina illustrated that effective preparation and response to a catastrophe requires a joint effort between federal, state, and local government. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is responsible for heading the joint effort. In January 2008, DHS released the National Response Framework (NRF), a revision of the 2004 National Response Plan (2004 Plan), the national preparation plan for all hazards. In response to the explanatory statement to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 and as discussed with congressional committees, this report evaluates the extent to which (1) DHS collaborated with non-federal stakeholders in revising and updating the 2004 Plan into the 2008 NRF and (2) FEMA has developed policies and procedures for managing future NRF revisions. To accomplish these objectives, GAO reviewed DHS and FEMA documents related to the revision process, analyzed the relevant statutes, and interviewed federal and non-federal officials who held key positions in the revision process.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Emergency Management Agency The FEMA Administrator should develop and disseminate policies and procedures that describe (1) the circumstances and time frames under which the next NRF revision will occur and (2) how FEMA will conduct the next NRF revision, including how its National Advisory Council and other non-federal stakeholders--state, local, and tribal governments; the private sector; and nongovernmental organizations--will be integrated into the revision process and the methods for communicating with these stakeholders.
Closed – Implemented
FEMA established provisions that direct the conditions and timing of revisions to the National Response Framework in DHS's Integrated Planning Guidance (a three-year revision cycle with the first revision by the end of fiscal year 2011), and developed a proposed National Response Framework Review and Revision Process paper for consideration by the Congress and National Advisory Council.

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