After nine years and $247 million, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) new high-tech disaster relief system may not work as intended, according to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Not only is the system unable to interface with systems of suppliers and partners, but FEMA does not have enough personnel trained on how to use the system, nor is there published guidance or procedures should the system be unavailable. Additionally, the estimated "life cycle cost of the system" is about $556 million, which is $231 million more than the original estimate.
FEMA's purpose for the Logistics Supply Chain Management System (LSCMS) was to make the acquisition and delivery of emergency supplies (water, food, generator, blankets) quicker and more efficient. However, according to Inspector General John Roth, "One of FEMA’s prime missions is to immediately provide survivors with three days’ worth of basic emergency supplies. As presently configured, this supply chain system is not up to that task.” Roth's report placed the blame on DHS and FEMA:
We attribute these deficiencies to inadequate program management and oversight by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA. As a result, FEMA may not be able to efficiently and effectively aid survivors of catastrophic disaster.
As recently as July 2014, FEMA had filled only 33 of 116 "logistics specialist positions" needed to operate the system in the event of an emergency, and not all of those had necessarily completed their training. Record-keeping for LSCMS training was so poor that the OIG "identified four logistics specialists with no record of having completed the LSCMS basic training course; yet in 2013, they were deployed for disaster response."
The OIG's report made 11 recommendations as a result of the audit, one of which FEMA has already fully addressed and the OIG considers closed. FEMA has begun to take action on most of the remaining recommendations, but the OIG is awaiting evidence of implementation before considering them resolved. In any case, even with the recommendations implemented, the OIG expressed doubt that the system would ever function as originally intended, concluding that "the current LSCMS may not ever meet critical performance requirements."
In our November 25, 2013, issue, Jonathan V. Last chronicled the story of Ocean Grove, the New Jersey shore town which was being denied FEMA relief funds to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. The problem was that Ocean Grove was originally settled as a Methodist campsite and that the town remains nominally Christian—which is to say that it is governed by a “Camp Meeting Association,” which has roughly the power of a garden-variety homeowner’s association. But which also happens to own all of the land.
A reporter today asked the White House why folks in New Jersey and New York still don't have power "weeks" after Hurricane Sandy:
"Well, I would point you to the substantial and fast effort that the president oversaw in terms of the federal response to this terrible storm," White House press secretary Jay Carney said, dodging the question. "And I think that that effort ... has been documented."
It has been a little more than a month since Hurricane Sandy made landfall and pounded the Atlantic shores of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Within hours, government big dogs, the president included, were on the scene promising speedy and comprehensive relief. When they left to attend to campaigning and other business, the bureaucrats arrived and took over. Now, things proceed slowly and in the usual fashion.
As people in New York were suffering and hospitals were being evacuated, the New York Times editorial page seized the occasion to score political points: “Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of ‘big government,’ which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it.” This was dishonest partisan spin.
President Obama comes to work, conducts a few conference calls on Hurricane Sandy, holds a press conference, and later travels to New Jersey to survey the damage caused by the storm. In doing so, he performs a job expected of him as president.
A host of liberal politicians and pundits have taken House Republican leader Eric Cantor to task for daring to insist that any disaster spending allocated to pay for the damage done by Hurricane Irene be offset in the budget elsewhere. They view Cantor as injecting politics into the country’s disaster management programs.
Today, in the Post Dana Milbank makes a fairly bold assertion:
Don’t expect anybody to throw a tea party, but Big Government finally got one right.
Milbank is, of course, talking about how the the federal government's response to Hurricane Irene was a smashing success. The hurricane hit landfall just ten miles off from where NOAA had predicted, and Milbank notes that FEMA and NOAA both got "high marks" for their response to the hurricane.
Michael D. Brown says he got a bad rap. With the statement, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” on September 2, 2005, George W. Bush made Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the name and face of governmental incompetence after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast. Ten days later, Brown resigned.