FEMA mismanaged $40M IT system, IG says

FEMA bought the system without proper evaluation, IG says

The Federal Emergency Management Agency poorly managed a $40 million information technology program that has delivered an unproven system, according to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

In the April 23 report, Skinner outlined a series of problems with the FEMA Mitigation Directorate’s management of the National Flood Insurance Program’s information technology system known as NextGen, which began development in 2003.

First, the agency did not coordinate planning and buying the NextGen system with FEMA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, the report states.

“The Mitigation Directorate attempted to develop an information technology system without the involvement of the chief information officer, resulting in a system unable to meet FEMA’s security and technical requirements,” Skinner wrote. “A lack of coordination with the Acquisition Management Division led to payment for an unproven system.”

Furthermore, the directorate “paid $40 million to conceptualize and develop NextGen without testing the system to see if it performed according to the contract requirements,” Skinner wrote.

The system is now undergoing an assessment, the report states, but to date, Skinner estimated the amount wasted as $7.5 million.

Second, he described misplaced allegiances among FEMA employees during the transition from existing contractor Computer Sciences Corp. to a new contractor, Optimal Solutions and Technologies.

For example, FEMA chose a former Optimal Solutions employee to oversee the company’s contract performance. In addition, more than a dozen former CSC employees worked in FEMA’s Mitigation Directorate.

“The misplaced allegiances of key directorate employees hampered the performance of both contractors,” Skinner wrote. “The apparent inability of these employees to leave behind past alliances led to a divide within the directorate and prevented an honest assessment of the status of NextGen and the transition.”

Skinner made four recommendations to FEMA, including conducting ethics training for employees and coordinating efforts with the CIO. FEMA managers agreed in principle with the recommendations, the report states.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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