- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

Since the Hurricane Katrina disaster, federal and state and local governments have begun examining what went wrong with the Homeland Security Department response.

Why were we so late getting supplies to the people in need? Why didn’t we have enough officials on the ground to manage the situation? Why did it get so out-of-hand and most important, how can we prevent this kind of a response to future disasters?

Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress DHS needs to look at a FEMA automated logistics management capability and do what the private sector does “to make sure we get things to people who need them quick.”

DHS has no automated logistics management tools to coordinate an integrated response to catastrophic events — a core mission of the department. The department is hindered by incomplete information for managers to make key decisions.

DHS needs the ability to see and share a common operating picture across all of DHS, not just FEMA. The successful execution of DHS missions requires total visibility into the positioning and status of its aggregate assets, (people, aircraft, vehicles, vessels, relief supplies, emergency responders, disaster relief centers, field hospitals, and emergency communication capabilities) and those of nongovernment organizations (NGO) such as the American Red Cross. This view is a critical component of coordinated response and recovery efforts on behalf of the federal government and the first responder community. DHS needs the ability to locate mission assets and items in the supply chain — whether in storage, transit or acquisition. Knowing what assets will be available when and where, DHS can furnish precise information to help first responders and the other federal response agencies plan and execute their missions more effectively.

Dealing with a catastrophe usually requires aviation. DHS aviation assets are not found in FEMA. They are spread among the Coast Guard, Air and Marine Operations in Customs and Border Protection and Detention and Deportation. Integrated logistics for supporting air operations not only requires accurate visibility into available assets and their location, but also availability and location of fuel, spare parts and crews.

DHS can benefit from the experience of both commercial supply chains such as Home Depot and WalMart and Defense Department force deployment. How can these companies and Defense quickly get critical personnel, equipment and materials into disaster areas? They have automated supply chains built on accurate and timely information, giving them the agility to react and respond.

DHS should embrace supply chain management standards and use business process modeling tools and business rules that enable network redirection of assets as conditions change.

The lack of financial systems interfaces also left senior DHS management without up-to-date spending data. This lack of financial control will worsen as reconstruction funds are spent. It is also a contributing factor to DHS late payment problems, which severely impacts small businesses in the disaster area.

An integrated and adequately interfaced logistics system would effectively link acquisition and financial management systems and eliminate this problem.

An enterprisewide integrated logistics system will provide total visibility and accountability into assets, resources and people in normal operational mode and during emergency responses.

The solution should provide DHS the civilian equivalent of DoD’s time-phased force deployment planning and execution modules that instruct commanders what supplies or equipment to load on what conveyances and in what sequence to most efficiently move and control complex deployments.

DHS needs an automated asset and logistics management system, and not just automated logistics for FEMA.


Former chief of staff, Office of the Undersecretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security and a senior business strategy executive at Computer Sciences Corp.

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