Urban Area Security Initiative: FEMA Lacks Measures to Assess How Regional Collaboration Efforts Build Preparedness Capabilities

GAO-09-651 Published: Jul 02, 2009. Publicly Released: Jul 02, 2009.
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From fiscal year 2003 through fiscal year 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allocated about $5 billion for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program to enhance regional preparedness capabilities in the nation's highest risk urban areas (UASI regions). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers this program. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act) required FEMA to change the size of the geographical areas used to assess UASI regions' risk. The conference report accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2008 directed GAO to assess FEMA's efforts to build regional preparedness through the UASI program, and determine how the 9/11 Act change affected UASI regions. This report addresses (1) the extent to which FEMA assesses how UASI regions' collaborative efforts build preparedness capabilities, and (2) how UASI officials described their collaboration efforts and changes resulting from the 9/11 Act. GAO surveyed all 49 UASI regions that received funding prior to the 9/11 Act change, and visited 6 regions selected based on factors such as length of participation. GAO also reviewed FEMA's grant guidance and monitoring systems.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Emergency Management Agency The FEMA Administrator should develop and implement measures to assess how regional collaboration efforts funded by UASI grants build preparedness capabilities.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contracted the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to provide recommendations for quantifiable performance measures to assess the effectiveness of the State Homeland Security Grant Program and UASI grants. NAPA issued its report in October 2011 and FEMA released the report in April 2012. The report recommends that FEMA conduct an assessment of collaborative approaches, in coordination with local jurisdictions, states, regions, and urban areas, and use the results to develop a scoring system for future quantitative or qualitative performance measures on collaboration and to assist program participants to strengthen their performance on this critical issue. On June 3, 2013, FEMA provided an update, citing 3 actions taken in response to this recommendation, noting that 1) UASI grantees are required to establish an Urban Area Working Group (UAWG), 2) UASI grantees are required to align their Emergency Operation Plans to the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101, and 3) UASI grantees are required to annually complete a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA). Given the long-standing nature of this recommendation, FEMA's response to both GAO and NAPA, and the difficulties FEMA has historically identified in establishing performance measures for preparedness capabilities, particularly for regional collaboration, this recommendation is closed as not implemented.

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