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OIG: FEMA Accomplished Operational Goals to Assist Unaccompanied Children

In March of 2021, the Secretary of Homeland Security directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the government-wide operation to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children from the U.S. southwest border for a period of 90 days.

From March 13, 2021 through June 11, 2021, FEMA accomplished its operational goals to help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide shelter and supplies to unaccompanied children from the U.S. southwest border. 

This finding from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) adds that FEMA worked closely with HHS, including successfully establishing 14 emergency intake sites in Texas, California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. OIG found that FEMA also assisted HHS to build out 23,253 beds and provide other critical supplies, such as food, water, beds, blankets, and medical supplies at emergency intake sites. As a result, during this time period, HHS, with FEMA’s help, provided shelter to about 27,000 unaccompanied children. 

The critical supplies were provided through an intragovernmental reimbursable agreement, which allowed HHS to reimburse FEMA for expenses relating to the requested work. FEMA also helped coordinate the transportation of those supplies. FEMA’s expenses relating to the requested work were about $200,000 to transport and replenish national stockpile goods, and an additional $3.9 million in direct labor and travel costs. 

OIG’s audit also found that FEMA helped HHS determine the bed space required to meet unaccompanied children demand from Border Patrol facilities. FEMA used a forecasting system to drive bed space decisions and the Operation Apollo Digital Briefing Book to provide senior leadership with a daily overview of the number of children encountered and housed at each facility, total discharged, quantity of beds, as well as staffing, facility, safety, and health issues. 

FEMA itself has identified several best practices and areas for improvement in an after-action report. These recommendations included: 

  • taking proactive steps with partner agencies to rapidly scale up capacities to meet future unaccompanied children demand; 
  • co-locating involved agencies at the onset to improve communication and coordination efforts; 
  • preparing personnel during steady-state to ensure they are adequately trained for future operations; and 
  • continuing to clarify roles and responsibilities for future operations

OIG did not make any additional recommendations and determined the operation to be a success in terms of FEMA and HSS collaboration.

Read the full report at OIG

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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