Three FEMA grants going electronic

In another step toward its vision of e-government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to automate three of its grants programs.

Last month, FEMA began developing the requirements for automating its firefighters assistance, predisaster mitigation and flood mitigation grants. The grant programs will be part of FEMA's National Emergency Management Information System, an agencywide system of hardware, software and telecommunications that supports emergency coordination, support and mitigation, and other functions, said Clay Hollister, FEMA's chief information officer.

"We spent a lot of time developing NEMIS so we could basically plug and play," Hollister said. "We're now going to plug in [these new applications] on top of that."

By next spring, Hollister said, state and local emergency management officials will be able to apply for the grants online, with the entire process — from evaluation to payment — handled electronically. In addition, grant recipients will be able to file updated reports via the World Wide Web.

FEMA has about 20 grant programs available to state and local emergency managers, Hollister said. In addition, the agency provides assistance to disaster victims, and that grant process has already been automated.

Grant automation is just one of several streamlining initiatives in the works at FEMA, said Deputy CIO Dennis DeWalt. Also on tap is an electronic documents and records management system; electronic procurement; public-key infrastructure using digital certificates issued by the General Services Administration; and a virtual private network linking FEMA and the states.

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