National Preparedness: Actions Taken by FEMA to Implement Select Provisions of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006

GAO-14-99R Published: Nov 26, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 2013.
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What GAO Found

In summary, GAO found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported taking various actions to address each of the five provisions of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Post-Katrina Act) that GAO reviewed.

  • 6 U.S.C. 319 (b)(2)(C): In response to this provision--which requires FEMA to revise the Catastrophic Incident Annex (the Annex) to the National Response Plan (NRP), now called the National Response Framework (NRF), and finalize and release the Catastrophic Incident Supplement (the Supplement) to the NRP--FEMA revised the Annex, and finalized and released the Supplement, but has not revised the Supplement to reflect the NRF.
  • 6 U.S.C. 748 (b): In response to this provision--which requires FEMA to carry out a national exercise program and conduct periodic national exercises, not less than biennially--FEMA developed the National Exercise Program (NEP) in coordination with other federal agencies and two national councils within the time frame required by the act, and conducted five national exercises since fiscal year 2007.
  • 6 U.S.C. 751 (b) and (d): In response to this provision--which requires FEMA to develop an inventory of federal response capabilities as well as a database for the inventory--FEMA officials said that, taken together, the draft Federal Interagency Operational Plan for the NRF (Response FIOP) and FEMA's Pre-Scripted Mission Assignment (PSMA) Catalogue address the requirement.
  • 6 U.S.C. 752 (b): In response to this provision--which requires FEMA to annually submit to Congress a Catastrophic Resource Report (CRR) that includes estimates of the resources of FEMA and other federal agencies needed for and devoted specifically to developing capabilities at all levels of government necessary to respond to a catastrophic incident--FEMA did not issue CRRs from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2011, issued the first CRR in August 2012, and as of September 2013 FEMA officials said that they intend to issue the second annual CRR by the end of calendar year 2013.
  • 6 U.S.C. 753 (c) and (d): In response to this provision--which requires FEMA's development of pre-scripted mission assignments (PSMA) and presidential certification that federal agencies with responsibilities under the NRP (now NRF) have, among other things, needed operational capabilities to meet the National Preparedness Goal--FEMA issued a PSMA Catalogue, and FEMA officials said that various recently issued and to-be-issued reports and a draft plan should collectively be considered to meet the presidential certification requirement.

Why GAO Did This Study

On August 29, 2005, and in the ensuing days, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma devastated the Gulf Coast region of the United States. In October 2006, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Post-Katrina Act) was enacted. Among other things, the Post-Katrina Act enhanced FEMA's responsibilities and its autonomy within the Department of Homeland Security. Given the importance of proper implementation of the act and the need for a unified, coordinated national incident management system capable of preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters, including catastrophic disasters, GAO was asked to review the status of implementation of five select provisions of the Post-Katrina Act related to the development of plans, exercises, capabilities, reports, and presidential certification of federal preparedness. This report describes the actions FEMA has taken to address these select Post-Katrina Act provisions.

To conduct this work, we analyzed the five Post-Katrina Act provisions, reviewed agency documents--including emergency response and implementation plans and related reports--and discussed the act's implementation with FEMA officials to identify actions taken in response to the act's provisions during the period from October 2006 through November 2013. We also compared the actions described in agency documents and reported by officials with the provisions in order to describe any differences between the actions FEMA took and the language of the provisions. We did not assess the quality or likely outcomes of any of the actions that FEMA has taken. It was beyond the scope of this report to determine whether FEMA had fully complied with the provisions of the law or to evaluate the effectiveness--individually or collectively--of the actions that FEMA has taken. Therefore, the description of an "action taken" for any given provision does not necessarily mean that FEMA has done all that is necessary to implement that particular provision or that FEMA has done so effectively. Further, where future actions to be taken are identified, it is not intended to suggest that once that action is completed, the relevant statutory provision will be fully implemented.

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