- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2014

More than a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks and a deadly tsunami that ravaged Southeast Asia, federal agencies remain woefully lacking in disaster preparedness and don’t even have coordination plans to close the gap, Congress’ chief watchdog warns in a new report.

The Government Accountability Office’s December report on the U.S.’s emergency support functions (ESF) found that there are federal capability gaps that need to be closed in the departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Justice.

The GAO report focuses on the federal government’s ability to respond to no-notice catastrophic disasters such as a nuclear attack in a U.S. city, the March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami and partial nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and other potential real-world disasters.

Its assessments were based on reviews of interagency and departmental after-action reports, improvement plans, and other federal documents.

The report urges FEMA and other federal agencies:

• to issue guidance to ESF coordinators detailing “minimum standards for activities and product deliverables necessary to demonstrate ESF preparedness”;

• provide regular reports on the status of corrective actions identified through prior national-level exercises and real-world disasters; and

• develop and issue detailed program management information to better enable management oversight of the DHS IND Strategy’s recommended actions.

GAO provided a draft of its report to the aforementioned departments and the National Security Council Staff for review and comment.

“In its overall comments, DHS stated that FEMA recognizes the need to continue to improve national capabilities to respond to disasters, including through implementation of the recommendations raised in this report,” the report stated.

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