Today marks the beginning of the annual Atlantic Hurricane Season. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, noted the occasion as he released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report he requested on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Disaster Assistance Employee (DAE) program. The report, entitled "Disaster Assistance Workforce: FEMA Could Enhance Human Capital Management and Training" (GAO-12-538) found significant deficiencies in FEMA's management of the DAE workforce.
With almost 10,000 employees, DAEs, a reserve workforce that interacts with disaster survivors, constitutes 57% of FEMA's total workforce. Responsible for serving as the post-disaster "frontline," these FEMA employees provide valuable information on financial assistance available to individuals and local governments in the wake of disaster. In addition to direct assistance, such as helping survivors find housing, DAEs support state and local mass care, feeding and sheltering operations.
However, GAO found that FEMA has few policies to guide their work.
* FEMA does not monitor how DAEs implement disaster policies across regions to ensure consistency.
* FEMA has not established hiring criteria and has limited salary criteria for DAEs and FEMA does not have sufficient criteria for supervisors to rate DAE performance.
* FEMA does not have a plan to ensure DAEs receive necessary training and FEMA does not track how much of the Disaster Relief Fund is spent on training.
* FEMA does not allow DAEs to receive official information during non-deployment periods.
Congressman Thompson released the following statement with the report:
"At the opening day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, we must all hope that predictions of an unremarkable season are accurate. However, even in an unremarkable hurricane season, disasters occur. FEMA's DAEs are the frontline in the Federal effort to help stricken communities recover and rebuild and the Disaster Assistance Employee program must institute common sense practices which are applied across the board to all DAEs in all regions. FEMA must ensure that DAEs are adequately trained, properly supported, and fairly paid. We must ensure that FEMA and its workforce are working as efficiently as possible. I will continue to monitor the progress that FEMA makes in addressing these serious deficiencies noted by GAO."