As Hurricane Dorian nears the U.S. coast, an IG report said that FEMA failed to keep its IT systems up to acceptable standards for more than a decade despite multiple warnings.
What did the report say?
According to a report released Aug. 27 by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General:
FEMA has not implemented federally mandated IT management practices essential for effective oversight of its IT environment. Specifically, FEMA has not established an IT strategic plan, architecture, or governance framework to facilitate day-to-day management of its aging IT systems and equipment.
The IG said that it had alerted FEMA to these issues before in "audits throughout the last 13 years."
Among other issues, the report said that "FEMA has not provided its personnel with the IT systems necessary to support response and recovery operations effectively. FEMA's legacy IT systems are not integrated and lack the functionality needed to keep pace with high-volume processing."
Because of these issues, the reports said that FEMA "field personnel engage in time-consuming, manual processes to accomplish mission tasks. For example, following the hurricanes and wildfires in 2017, some FEMA personnel used their personal laptop computers in place of FEMA's official systems to keep pace with mission requirements."
The DHS Office of Inspector General blamed these problems on FEMA leadership failing to give its chief information officer "adequate and authority to plan and manage IT resources agency-side" and on "FEMA's decentralized approach of allocating funds directly to program offices" which "results in fewer resources for supporting entities."
How much does this matter?
FEMA is hugely important to disaster relief efforts in the United States. According to this report, in 2017 alone, disasters including hurricanes and wildfires affected nearly 15 percent of the total U.S. population. That same year, FEMA offered Americans in disaster zones $7.2 billion in aid.