FEMA On Course For Another Grants Modernization Disaster, Watchdog Says

Backflow waters flood home property and farm land along Mississippi 16 near Rolling Fork, Miss., March 11.

Backflow waters flood home property and farm land along Mississippi 16 near Rolling Fork, Miss., March 11. Rogelio V. Solis/AP

The emergency response agency is on its second attempt to modernize its grants IT infrastructure.

As watchdogs and congressional leaders eyeball the Federal Emergency Management Agency for severely lax data sharing controls, the Government Accountability Office is dinging the agency for the management of its grants IT modernization program.

In the wake of disasters, one of FEMA’s primary functions is to get resources—including monetary—to those impacted. Some 70 percent of the agency’s annual budget is meted out in grants to state, local and private citizens and organizations to “help communities prevent, prepare for, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from disasters and terrorist attacks,” as GAO notes.

In 2015, FEMA began its second attempt to modernize the underlying IT infrastructure supporting the grants process, dubbing the new initiative the Grants Management Modernization program. Program managers are charged with bringing together 45 separate grants programs currently spread across 10 legacy IT systems and a dozen grant categories, each governed by one of 18 authorizing laws enacted over 62 years, as GAO analysts point out.

More than three years in, GAO found program leaders were adhering to most IT management best practices but could improve in two areas.

“Until FEMA fully implements the remaining two practices, it risks delivering an IT solution that does not fully modernize FEMA’s grants management systems,” GAO analysts wrote.

Of the six leading practices for “effective business process reengineering and IT requirements management,” FEMA is implementing four, including ensuring leadership buy-in, accurately assessing the current and desired states, tracking progress on deliverables, and incorporating user feedback.

However, management has only partially implemented plans for deploying new business processes and have yet to fully establish “clear, prioritized and traceable IT requirements.”

On the first point, FEMA officials told GAO they worked with the previous modernization program team to determine plans and timelines. Those meetings, however, were informal and the transition milestones were never officially set down.

This has already led to problems, including what GAO referred to as an unrealistic rollout schedule and outdated cost projections.

“One of the most significant issues was that the program’s fast approaching, final delivery date of September 2020 was not informed by a realistic assessment of GMM development activities, and rather was determined by imposing an unsubstantiated delivery date,” the report states.

Program officials told GAO that the schedule is set and immutable. “The officials added that, if GMM encounters challenges in meeting this time frame, the program plans to seek additional resources to allow it to meet the 2020 target.”

Similarly, while GAO commended FEMA for adopting agile development processes, the agency failed to track progress on specific deliverables from those sprints through the first half of 2018. That failure led to slipping schedules and a missed December 2018 deadline for several functions.

GAO analysts said FEMA responded to previous recommendations on this issue, readjusted in July 2018 and is on track to deliver those functions by August 2019.

The report also highlights two outstanding security weaknesses in the program’s testing environment, including lax user access controls and a lack of an authority to operate, an official designation required before standing up federal IT systems.

GAO auditors made eight recommendations for the program. FEMA officials concurred with all eight and offered timelines for implementing the corrective actions.

GAO’s findings come on the heels of a report from FEMA’s inspector general showing the agency failed to properly protect highly sensitive information—such as addresses and bank accounts—of certain disaster victims seeking assistance. FEMA has since addressed that data sharing issue, though Congressional leaders are pushing for more details.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.