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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007--Continued -- (House of Representatives - May 25, 2006)

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Mr. JINDAL. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment to enhance the real-time capabilities assessments. The events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita highlighted serious flaws and deficiencies in our national response plan, the National Incident Management System, and State and local regional responses that were caused by a lack of valid, real-time data related to resident capabilities.

For example, one Texas community had an overflow of special needs residents that were using dance studios, abandoned shopping centers even though it was determined later there were over 10,000 special needs beds available within 100 miles.

The city of New Orleans had an emergency excavation plan, but it couldn't be executed as written because assumed capabilities not functional and prior coordination of assets were not implemented. Response plans called for the utilization of National Guard troops even though at the time of Hurricane Katrina one of the designated units was deployed to Iraq.

Hundreds of thousands of hours were spent on phone calls and e-mails to obtain real-time capability information, finding suitable replacements or options, or to redirecting assets from locations with excess capabilities to those with critical needs.

The underlying bill takes important steps to build upon the existing Department of Homeland Security requirements to build a national assessment and reporting system by September 30, 2006.

The intent of my amendment is to further direct the Department to develop a system that verifies and validates in real-time what qualified assets are available in order to meet emergent or anticipated events, even when the information supplied is coming from disparate or incompatible databases.

These technologies are already being used by the Department of Defense and should be applied toward DHS preparedness goals.

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Mr. JINDAL. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment to reduce FEMA waste, fraud, and abuse.

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA provided $2,000 in individual and household program payments to affected households. Individuals could apply for disaster assistance using the Internet or telephone.

As of mid-December, such payments totaled $5.4 billion with almost half of that, $2.3 billion, in the form of expedited assistance.

According to Social Security Administration data, FEMA made millions of dollars in payments to thousands of registrants who submitted false Social Security numbers. According to a GAO study, 165 of 248 sampled registrations contained false Social Security numbers, and 80 of 200 alleged disaster addresses were false.

This amendment says that FEMA should implement a fully tested process that can provide real-time access to data required to validate identities and addresses for those seeking disaster assistance.

While FEMA has taken certain steps to curtail waste, fraud and abuse within its program, more needs to be done.

The intent of my amendment is to direct FEMA to implement an identity verification system that assures disaster assistance payments are made only to qualified individuals. In a statement I will submit for the RECORD, I have some specific criteria that will be used.

The intent of my amendment is to allocate $1 million to FEMA to implement an identity verification system that assures disaster assistance payments are made only to qualified individuals.

Specifically by (1) establishing detailed criteria for registration and provide clear instructions to registrants on the identification information required, (2) creating a field within registration that asks registrants to provide their name exactly as it appears on their Social Security Card in order to prevent name and social security mismatches, (3) fully field testing the identity verification process prior to implementation, (4) ensuring that call center employees give real-time feedback to registrants on whether their identities have been validated, and (5) establishing a process that uses alternative means of identity verification to expeditiously handle legitimate applicants that are rejected by identity verification controls.

I want to thank the chairman and ranking member for their work on this bill and their consideration of my amendment.

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