Homeland role boosts FEMA budget

As one of several agencies directly involved in homeland security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency came out ahead in the Bush administration's budget proposal for fiscal 2003.

The administration is asking for $6.4 billion in overall spending for FEMA with more money going toward terrorism preparedness. The proposal sets aside $175.6 million for information technology — a 6 percent increase.

"FEMA's budget will meet the president's challenge to enhance America's homeland security while bolstering our disaster mitigation and response capabilities," FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh said in a news release.

The request includes $3.6 billion for new equipment and training -- a $3.2 billion increase — to enhance state and local readiness against attacks.

The proposal also provides $350 million for the modernization of flood maps, which will be digitized and put online.

The agency's Integrated Financial Management System took a hit, receiving $1.4 million (a 17.6 percent decrease), as did IT architecture and planning, down 79.4 percent from $6.8 million.

"FEMA's financial management is unable to generate timely and reliable financial statements," the Bush administration found.

Other IT programs fared well. The National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS), the agency's core information tracking system, got $26.4 million — a 13.3 percent increase. FEMA Enterprise GIS is budgeted for $4.8 million — a 300 percent increase.

Still, NEMIS, which cost $67 million, "has a history of crashing during disaster response operations and cannot be easily adapted to program design changes," the budget document says.

The ineffectiveness and costliness of that and other programs earned FEMA low marks for e-government.

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