OMB Report Should Have Red-Flagged FEMA’s Lack of Preparedness

FEMA’s “average” grade: A report issued by the Office of Management and Budget as part of the federal budgetary process detected shortcomings in the Federal Emergency Management Administration that became all too apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The assessment was published as part of the Bush administration’s fiscal 2006 budget request, and the OMB rated FEMA’s disaster response program “adequate” — effectively giving it a “C” grade. “Adequate” is the middle of five ratings agencies can be given on OMB’s annual evaluations that are used to make budget decisions.

Of 607 programs rated in the fiscal 2006 budget request, 15 percent ranked as “effective,” 26 percent earned marks of “moderately effective,” 26 percent ranked as “adequate,” 4 percent were rated “ineffective” and 29 percent could not demonstrate results.

FEMA’s response program received high scores for management and planning, but lower scores in the “purpose” and “results/accountability” sections of the assessment. The evaluation also noted potential legal obstacles to getting resources to disaster victims. For instance — and this came out at the start of the Blame Game — the Stafford Act prevents FEMA from disbursing federal aid until states issue a disaster declaration. OMB evaluators said that could result in ineffective targeting of resources, which is exactly what happened.

The report noted that in some situations. government resources cannot be used and the opposite also could also occur, where resources might be used in a community that should not receive federal aid — like Miami-Dade County after last summer’s hurricanes.

FEMA response managers also were criticized by OMB for not tying budget requests to annual and long-term performance goals. For example, budget requests for the Disaster Relief Fund are based on a five-year average of disaster costs rather than on performance data.


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