IG: FEMA acquisition workforce still not prepared

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s acquisition workforce has grown in recent years, acquisition employees are not yet fully prepared to handle major disasters, according to an independent audit published Dec. 17 by DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The audit, prepared by the accounting firm Foxx and Co., recommends that FEMA prepare a strategic plan for its acquisition workforce and create policies and procedures for FEMA’s Office of Acquisition Management. The strategic plan should focus on setting standard operating procedures and rules for information sharing and communication, the audit states.

“FEMA has improved the capability of its acquisition workforce in a number of ways,” states the audit, which was posted on the DHS IG’s Web site. “For example, the acquisition organization has been reorganized and management and oversight improved, the number of acquisition staff has been greatly increased, and FEMA has increased training for its acquisition staff.”

“While this is a good first step, FEMA does not have the necessary plans and policies, or the well-prepared acquisition workforce, that it needs to respond to disasters that result in extraordinary levels of casualties, damage or disruptions,” the audit said.

Since 2005, FEMA’s authorized acquisition staff has increased to 155, up from 55 positions three years ago. FEMA has filled about 120 of those positions.

The audit also recommends that FEMA officials:
  • Coordinate with other federal acquisition organizations involved in disaster response.
  • Perform a staffing analysis to determine the appropriate size of the disaster assistance employee contracting cadre.
  • Develop a succession plan for FEMA’s Office of Acquisition Management staff.
  • Initiate a mentoring program.
  • Design a rotation program to move field acquisition staff into headquarters, and vice versa.
  • Provide training and guidance.

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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