IG to investigate FEMA IT management

DHS' internal watchdog is planning to dig into FEMA's IT management practices, due to concerns it was misled by FEMA leadership about progress on IT management goals.

Shutterstock image ID: 738923143 Editorial credit: bakdc

FEMA's Washington, D.C. headquarters. (Image credit: bakdc/Shutterstock.com)

The Department of Homeland Security's IG office is planning a comprehensive investigation into FEMA's IT management practices due to concerns it was misled by FEMA leadership about progress on IT management goals.

In a management alert to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, OIG is reporting that based on field work in January and February, it has found FEMA has made "limited progress" on improving IT management issues dating as far back as 2005. OIG states these issues "remain unchanged," and have an "adverse impact on day-to-day operations and mission readiness."

Given FEMA's responsibility in disaster response, these IT issues "can hamper disaster response efforts."

"Having reliable and efficient IT systems and infrastructure is critical to support increased disaster relief efforts in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season," the notice states. OIG states according to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund Monthly Report, as of the end of 2017, Congress had appropriated over $24 billion for disaster recovery.

Beyond the outstanding recommendations, OIG alleges FEMA's justification to close a recommendation made in November 2015 regarding the agency's IT governing board charter and authority was "misleading," and that FEMA's procedures "had not truly met the intent of the recommendation."

For the remaining four recommendations made in the November 2015 report, OIG is also alleging that agency CIO Adrian Gardner "assured" OIG representatives that he had included a requirement to complete the other corrective actions in the deputy CIO's fiscal year 2018 performance plan.

"However, CIO Office officials we subsequently interviewed said that, given competing priorities, the CIO had removed the funding and staff resources they needed to effectively address the report recommendations," John V. Kelly, acting DHS IG, writes.

Those "competing priorities" in the second half of 2017 included FEMA's scramble to respond to Hurricane Harvey and the flooding it caused in Houston; the destruction Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused in Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; and the wildfires that swept through California. As one government official familiar with FEMA's challenges put it to FCW, "ops tempo definitely has an impact."

The alert does not specify which OCIO staff were interviewed, or the reallocated resources in question. FEMA's press office did not respond to FCW's request for comment by publication time.