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Success of Future Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts Depends on FEMA Addressing Current Vulnerabilities, Says OIG

Based on prior work, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General identified a pattern of internal control vulnerabilities that negatively affect both disaster survivors and disaster program effectiveness. These vulnerabilities may hinder future response efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its state and local Public Assistance (PA) grant recipients.

The following systemic vulnerabilities negatively affected disaster survivors:

  • shortcomings in acquisition and contracting controls that hindered prompt provision of supplies and increased the risk of questionable sheltering options for survivors;
  • interagency coordination challenges that reduced Federal volunteers’ usefulness in affected areas; and
  • inadequate staffing and training, as well as insufficient privacy safeguards, increased fraud exposure and risk to survivors’ personally identifiable information.

In addition, systemic vulnerabilities reduced disaster program effectiveness because FEMA did not adequately:

  • oversee disaster grant recipients and subrecipients, putting millions of Federal dollars at risk of fraud, waste, or abuse;
  • manage disaster assistance funds to ensure financial accountability and safeguarding of funds; and
  • oversee its information technology (IT) environment to support response and recovery efforts effectively.

As of September 30, 2020, FEMA had not implemented 98 of the 115 recommendations OIG made, of which 74 of the 98 were issued within 6 months of this date and 8 were unresolved. Swift corrective action will help FEMA better prepare for future disasters and improve the Nation’s response and recovery.

Multiple hurricanes in 2017 exposed weaknesses in Federal, state, and local governments’ capabilities to respond to concurrent disasters. OIG previously published more than two dozen reports resulting in 115 recommendations to improve Federal disaster response. This report provides a summary of OIG’s previous findings and recommendations, which may inform future disaster response efforts. FEMA should share this report with its PA grant recipients and subrecipients to promote their awareness and improvement in the systemic areas identified.

This report contains no recommendations, so OIG considers the report closed.

Read the OIG report

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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