GAO Report 09-369: National Preparedness

Friday, May 29, 2009

The consequences of Hurricane Katrina highlighted gaps in national preparedness for a catastrophic disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is the lead federal agency responsible for developing a national preparedness system. 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.

After GAO analyzed program documents, such as after-action reports, and visited six states located in disaster regions, GAO recommends that FEMA improve national preparedness by, among other things: (1) establishing a program management plan; (2) better ensuring exercises follow program guidance; (3) enhancing its project management plan for assessing capabilities; and (4) developing a strategic plan that integrates system elements.