Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 4, 2009

Recovery Lessons

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 4, 2009

The GAO has released a new study on lessons learned from recovery efforts after Ike and Gustav.  Among the principal findings:

  • Big benefits accrue from developing a “clear, implementable and timely recovery plan” very soon after the event.
  • Developing “financial and technical capacity” to administer funding is as important as accessibility to funding itself. 
  • The more that can be done to speed the recovery of  private employers and business services, the more rapidly overall recovery will proceed.
  • Fighting fraud, waste and abuse has to be built into the recovery effort from the beginning.

A personal take: Immediately after a disaster the media and politicians demand “flexibility” in meeting human needs.  Roughly six months later the same parties will begin to complain about fraud, waste, and abuse.

In order to achieve maximum flexibility with minimum fraud there is a need – not referenced in the GAO study – for more training and exercising of disaster recovery specialists from the local, state, and federal governments and the private sector.

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Comment by Claire . Rubin

March 4, 2009 @ 7:31 am

In my view, the GAO needs to do more to promote the idea of additional strategic thinking and planning on the part of local and state officials re recovery.
In recent years, the recovery phase has mainly been an exercise in federal grantsmanship.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 5, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

It would be helpful if FEMA was allowed to effectively transition OUT of any given geographic area 18 months after the occurence of the event so as to be ready for the NEXT ONE. This is one way to effectively limit Congress abusing FEMA by trying to always get the organization to fund questionable activities in the arena of recovery which is the concept with the broadest delegation to FEMA and the most undefined. After 18 months a statutory transition system should be developed to allow other day-to-day federal programs, functions, and activities to pick up where FEMA leaves off or digs in too deep. All disasters are political events but the scope of recovery activity has long ago lost any sense of limitation on the federal governments desire to make whole the victims of disaster whether governmental units or their citizens. President Nixon assigned the disaster program to HUD in 1973 largely because his (and staff) analysis saw the major effort of disaster relief focused on housing and community development. The problem of course is that HUD has always largely been adminstered to benefit the middle men in the housing system in the US not really seeing its mission as ensuring the available, sound, and safe housing mandated in its creating departmental statute. Perhaps NIXON had that issue correct.

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