Sneak Preview: GAO Calls for Emergency Preparedness Assessment

May 11, 2018 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) Until the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes a nationwide assessment that fully evaluates the performance of its emergency preparedness grant programs, it will not be able to identify its shortcomings in helping communities to reduce risks from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies, an official with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently told members of a House Homeland Security subcommittee.

“Developing such an assessment would help FEMA to identify what capability gaps exist at the federal level and what level of resources are needed to close such gaps,” Chris Currie, director of homeland security and justice issues at GAO, explained during a hearing on securing high-risk urban areas before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.

Several federal and local officials testified before the subcommittee about the importance of emergency preparedness funding to improve security and promote counterterrorism efforts. Thomas DiNanno, assistant administrator for grant programs at FEMA, discussed work being conducted through various grant programs, including the Homeland Security Grant Program (which includes the State Homeland Security Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI)), the Transit Security Grant Program, the Port Security Grant Program and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. He noted that in federal fiscal year 2017, DHS distributed more than $1.6 billion in preparedness grant funds through these programs.

“Together, these programs support the development, sustainment and delivery of core capabilities essential to achieving the national preparedness goal of a secure and resilient nation,” DiNanno said. “In the face of various hazards and threats, FEMA is committed to ensuring that our communities have the resources needed to prevent, prepare for, mitigate and respond to a wide range of incidents.”

For example, using UASI funds, the Newark-Jersey City urban area launched the Newark-Jersey City Business District Infrastructure Protection Initiative, which is securing critical areas of Newark’s and Jersey City’s business and downtown districts through increased monitoring and surveillance, enhanced lighting and security fencing at critical sites, and bollards to regulate traffic and protect structures. Similarly, New York City has used UASI funds to develop the Domain Awareness System, which uses various methods, including physical barriers and enhanced surveillance, to better secure key areas of Manhattan, including the financial district, Times Square, Grand Central Station and Penn Station.

Going forward, DiNanno said that FEMA has determined that the “most successful system to emergency preparedness is federally supported, state managed and locally executed.” FEMA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, therefore, has the following goals: (1) build a culture of preparedness; (2) ready the nation for catastrophic disasters; and (3) reduce the complexity of FEMA.

“A simplified FEMA streamlines survivor experiences, simplifies processes and policies for disaster staff and improves stewardship of federal taxpayer dollars,” he said. “FEMA will focus on identifying ways to weave preparedness into people’s everyday lives, connecting with individuals at places they frequent and incentivizing positive behavior change using tools like grants, training and exercises.”

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)

As a reminder, we have all of our Federal Funding Training Forums scheduled for 2018. Please let me know if you have questions or can make any of these. We hope to see you there!

  • Wednesday July 25 – Friday July 27 in MINNEAPOLIS

http://www.federalgrantsforum.com/minneapolis/index.html?src=AT

  • Wednesday October 17 – Friday October 19 in ATLANTA

http://www.federalgrantsforum.com/atlanta/index.html?src=AT

 

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