Law requires FEMA to streamline preparedness

Friday - 10/1/2010, 10:08am EDT

Henry Cuellar, (D, Tx)

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

FEMA has invested $29 billion in preparedness grants to state and local entities since 2002. Last fall, Congressman Henry Cuellar, then chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response, held a hearing to investigate how FEMA was spending preparedness funds.

Cuellar told Federal News Radio the agency spent another $5 million looking at the effectiveness of spending the $29 billion.

"And guess what," said Cuellar. "They're still unable to accurately gauge if the spending has made us safer."

Cuellar's bill, the Redundancy Elimination and Enhanced Performance for Preparedness Grants Act passed the House this week and will now go to the White House for signature.

The Act will require FEMA to streamline its preparedness funding program, making it more transparent and accountable, said Cuellar, "because when you talk about $29 billion dollars in preparedness grants to state and local entities since 2002, we've got to make sure we're spending the money correctly."

There does seem to be one big hang up, Cuellar explained. "You can't measure success or failure if you don't know if you're getting to that part."

The real difficulty, said Cuellar, will be to answer the question "'are we safer?' How do you measure that?"

Congress, said Cuellar, needs to be able to know "if we're just spending money because we've been spending money in this direction."

The goal is for FEMA to be able to identify and eliminate redundancy and assess performance of programs, which in turn will increase transparency and accountability.

Cuellar said the effort will act as a model for the entire Executive Branch. He said he has another bill, HR 2142, headed to senate floor "to do exactly the same thing we're talking about (at) FEMA, but it's going to be across the board. It'll be probably one of the biggest changes we've seen in the last 20 years."