GAO: More data and better performance measures could improve NCRC resource management

The Office of National Capital Region Coordination has been unable to evaluate its measures for emergency preparedness, making it unable to identify any preparedness gaps, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

The GAO issued a report on January 25 to look into the preparedness resources of the NCRC. The NCRC was established under the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to address emergency management planning and incident response coordination challenges. The agency was meant to increase preparedness through communication and planning between government and nongovernment organizations.

According to the report, while terrorism is one concern the NCRC should have, it must also increase preparedness for natural disasters. The report said that in the metro-Washington area alone, responses to a snowstorm on January 26, 2011, and an earthquake on August 23, 2011, were considered inadequate. Despite more than $560 million in grant funding since fiscal year 2003, the NCRC demonstrated limited coordination of public alerts and warnings and a lack of real-time situational awareness during the incidents.

The GAO said that the NCRC officials are not helping regional officials to develop performance measures for improved assessment of strategic plan initiation and are not identifying federal funding available for the prioritization of preparedness investments. Additionally, regional officials said that FEMA has not created a tracking system of available emergency management and homeland security federal funding. The officials said they could more effectively manage resources with that information.

The report recommends that the FEMA administrator require the director of the NCRC to help regional officials in the Washington area develop measures to better assess NCR strategic planning implementation and collect and maintain information for the NCR jurisdictions for federal grant funding.