GAO: FEMA tiptoes into fixing problems

The emergency management agency says it plans to upgrade IT systems.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken preliminary steps to deal with most of the approximately 300 requirements set by Congress in its legislation passed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.  Meanwhile, FEMA said it is upgrading its information technology systems.

The GAO report presents a partial audit of actions taken by FEMA from April through November to implement the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, GAO said its time was too limited to permit a full evaluation.

FEMA has begun to fulfill requirements for improved organizational structure, emergency communications, logistics, contracting and information technology, among other areas, states the report, signed by William Jenkins, director of homeland security and justice issues for GAO. The document was posted on GAO’s Web site Dec. 8.

“We have noted that DHS and FEMA have at least preliminary action under way to address most of the act’s provisions,” the report said. “We also noted that FEMA and [the Homeland Security Department] have much work remaining to fully implement the act’s provisions.”

Regarding improvements on FEMA’s information technology, FEMA officials said they will begin integrating the information in its three personnel and asset tracking systems in fiscal 2009, the report said.

“FEMA intends to achieve a more seamless information-sharing environment among its asset-tracking systems, resulting in a more integrated common operating picture for FEMA management,” the report said.

In addition, FEMA reported to the GAO that as of Aug. 1, 2008, all 10 FEMA regions had the ability to electronically track all orders, shipments in transit, and shipments received of its disaster commodities and assets in real-time status. In September, FEMA began linking its tracking systems to those of the Defense Logistics Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Red Cross to enable those organizations to better coordinate shipments of disaster commodities, the report said.

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