Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FEMA Needs to Cohesively Manage Its Workforce and Fully Address Post-Katrina Reforms

In meeting its mission to help prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA")—a component of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS")—contracts for a variety of products and services, ranging from providing tarps and blankets for disaster survivors to computer systems support. In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, FEMA obligated more than $2.1 billion for its disaster and non-disaster contracts. The focus of this report is FEMA’s disaster contracting, which during this period included obligations of $631 million from the FEMA headquarters contracting offices primarily responsible for supporting disasters, and almost $137 million from FEMA’s regional offices.

According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountibility Office ("GAO"), FEMA has more than tripled the number of contracting officers it employs since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it does not have a sufficient process in place to prioritize disaster workload and cohesively manage its workforce. Some of the workforce growth is attributed to the establishment of the Disaster Acquisition Response Team ("DART") in 2010, which has the primary mission of deploying to provide disaster contracting support, such as contracting for blankets or debris removal. DART has gradually assumed responsibility for administering the majority of disaster contract spending, but FEMA does not have a process for prioritizing the team's work during disasters. Without such a process, FEMA is at risk of developing gaps in contract oversight during major disasters. Further, in 2011, FEMA established an agreement that regional contracting officers would report to headquarters supervisors for technical oversight while continuing to respond to regional supervisors—who have responsibility for administrative duties—for everyday operations. This agreement has led to challenges for FEMA in cohesively managing its workforce, including heightening the potential for an environment of competing interests for the regional contracting officers. Further, FEMA has not revisited this agreement on annual basis as called for in the agreement. As a result, it does not incorporate lessons learned since its creation 4 years ago.

Read the full GAO report HERE.

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