GAO report outlines FEMA's progress on efficiency

Chris Currie, the acting director of homeland security and justice for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), outlined ways to improve the efficiency of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday in front of a Senate panel.

Currie's report focused on both the costs of responding to disasters and ways to strengthen and increase the effectiveness of FEMA's workforce management.

The GAO reported in 2012 that FEMA's administrative costs had increased for all sizes of disasters, to which FEMA issued guidelines and targets intended to improve efficiency. FEMA said in 2013 that it was implementing an effort called FEMAStat to better assess performance and progress, including administrative costs.

As of July of this year, however, FEMA said it was still collecting data on behalf of FEMAStat.

"As a result, it is too early to assess whether this effort will improve the efficiencies or reduce the cost associated with administering assistance in response to disasters," Currie said.

Currie also said that FEMA attempted to increase efficiency by gathering more data from its emergency preparedness grantees, although the implementation of new system for analyzing project-level data has been delayed until 2016 due to reduced funding.

Currie reported that FEMA implemented some of the GAO's recommendations on improving its workforce effectiveness, including steps to incorporate strategic management principals into its workforce planning. Other recommendations, Currie said, are still underway.