National Preparedness: FEMA Has Made Progress, but Needs to Complete and Integrate Planning, Exercise, and Assessment Efforts, Report to Congressional Requesters   [open pdf - 1MB]

"Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive disaster in our nation's history and it highlighted gaps in preparedness for a catastrophic disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a component within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the lead federal agency responsible for developing a national preparedness system. The system includes policies and plans as well as exercises and assessments of capabilities across many public and private entities. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which FEMA has (1) developed policies and plans that define roles and responsibilities; (2) implemented the National Exercise Program, a key tool for examining preparedness; (3) developed a national capabilities assessment; and (4) developed a strategic plan that integrates these elements of the preparedness system. GAO analyzed program documents, such as after-action reports, and visited six states located in disaster regions. While the results of these visits are not generalizable, they show how select states carry out their efforts. GAO recommends that FEMA improve national preparedness by, among other things, establishing a program management plan, better ensuring exercises follow program guidance, enhancing its project management plan for assessing capabilities, and developing a strategic plan that integrates system elements. DHS concurred with our recommendations."

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