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FEMA National Level Exercises Lessons Not Realized

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparation exercises. The report, entitled "FEMA's Management of Corrective Actions and Lessons Learned From National Level Exercises" (OIG-12-118) found that fewer than 40 percent of corrective actions identified from national level exercises have been completed, mostly due to program management. A National Level Exercise brings together state, local and Federal employees to train personnel to respond to pre-planned scenarios involving major disasters, such as floods, hurricanes and pandemics.

After an exercise, FEMA is responsible for developing After Action Reports and Improvement Plans, which should include corrective actions, timelines for completion, and identification of the agency responsible for completion. A record of these corrective actions are then to be entered into a database and tracked. The OIG found that FEMA did not adequately manage, track, or complete corrective actions assigned to it following the disaster management exercises in 2007 and 2009. OIG found this failure is partly due to leadership and organizational deficiencies in the Exercises Evaluation Program Steering Committee (EEPSC), which is responsible for tracking progress.

In addition to these problems, the OIG also found that FEMA did not validate corrective actions to ensure that completion of the actions improve performance or assure that lessons learned were distributed to personnel who participated in the exercises.

Congressman Thompson released the following statement with the report:

"The National Level Exercise is a valuable program that is critical to testing and validating our preparedness efforts. The report released today confirms the concerns I have raised about how the preparedness deficiencies which become may become apparent during these exercises are communicated and corrected. The underlying premise of these exercises it to reveal system weaknesses during a test situation so that those same weaknesses are corrected before a real disaster. Unless revealed problems are fixed, the exercise has had little long term value. I look forward to working with FEMA as it implements the recommendations made in the Inspector General's report."


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