+Bourne, Marko, Director, Office of Policy & Program Analysis, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Hurricaine Katrina Multitier Contracts (June 2008) (OIG 08-81) (PDF — 603K)
"We initiated this audit in response to Congressional concerns that, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, multitier subcontracting (1) increased costs to the government, (2) limited opportunities for small and local businesses to participate in response and recovery efforts, and (3) resulted in layers of subcontractors being paid profit and overhead while adding little or no value to the work performed under the contract. Our objectives were to determine the validity of these concerns, as well as to determine the potential effect Section 692 of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 could have on future disaster contracting.
"It does not appear that multitier subcontracting, as an isolated factor, caused significant increases in costs to the government, nor did it reduce subcontracting opportunities for small and local businesses. The prime contractors subcontracted a significant amount of the value of their contracts to small and local businesses.
"Although FEMA relied on large national prime contractors, initially preventing small and local businesses from participating as prime contractors themselves, the national prime contractors generally did well hiring small and local subcontractors. However, because subcontractor invoices generally do not include specific information on lower tier subcontractors, we could not determine how many layers of subcontracting existed on contracts or whether any layers involved contractors charging profit without contributing substantially to the work being performed on the contract.
"Although Section 692 of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 would limit subcontracting to 65% of total contract costs, nothing in this legislation specifically restricts the number of tiers of subcontractors. Further, by limiting subcontracting, Section 692 could restrict funding available to small and local businesses while potentially impairing FEMA's ability to respond quickly to future catastrophic disasters. The Department of Defense has promulgated less restrictive rules to control multitiering that reduce the risks inherent in Section 692. Therefore, we recommend FEMA officials work with DHS officials, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and Congress to promulgate less restrictive rules over multitier contracting." —Executive Summary.
+Holt, Mark & Anthony Andrews, Specialists in Energy Policy, Resources, Science, and Industry Division, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities (CRS Report for Congess, Order Code RL34331) (January 18, 2008) (PDF — 96K)
"The physical security of nuclear power plants and their vulnerability to deliberate acts of terrorism was elevated to a national security concern following the events of September 11, 2001.
"Title VI of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 regarding nuclear security amended the Atomic Energy Act with the addition of new provisions for security evaluations and rulemaking to revise the 'Design Basis Threat.' The act included provisions for fingerprinting and criminal background checks of security personnel, their use of firearms, and the unauthorized introduction of dangerous weapons. The designation of facilities subject to enforcement of penalties for sabotage expanded to include treatment and disposal facilities.
"As part of security response evaluations, the act requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct 'force-on-force' security exercises at nuclear power plants at least once every three years, and revise the 'design-basis threat' to consider a wider variety of potential attacks.
"The NRC has strengthened its regulations on nuclear power plant security, but critics contend that implementation by the industry has been too slow and that further measures are needed. Vulnerability to a deliberate aircraft crash remains an outstanding issue, as the latest NRC rulemaking addresses only newly designed plants. Shortcomings in the performance of security contractors has drawn the attention of Congress.
"This report will be updated as events warrant."—Summary.
+Kruger, Lennard G., Specialist in Science and Technology Resources, Science, and Industry Division, Congressional Research Service (CRS), United States Fire Administration: An Overview (CRS Report for Congress, Order Code RS20071) (Updated October 10, 2008) (PDF — 70.3K)
"The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) — which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA) — is currently an entity within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the nation's loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire. The Administration's FY2009 budget proposal requested $40.9 million for USFA, a reduction of 5.5% from the FY2008 level. For FY2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $43.3 million for USFA, while the House Appropriations Committee approved $44.979 million. The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 110-329) — which contains the FY2009 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act — provided $44.979 million for USFA. Meanwhile, the United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 4847/S. 2606) was signed into law on October 8, 2008 (P.L. 110-376). This report will be updated as events warrant."—Summary.
"This report provides a legal analysis of the eligibility of an influenza pandemic
(flu pandemic) to be declared by the President as a major disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. In 1997, the discovery of a virulent H5N1 strain of avian influenza (bird flu) raised the possibility of a flu pandemic occurring in the United States. In such an event, the Stafford Act could provide authority for federal assistance. Although it is widely agreed that emergency assistance under the Stafford Act could be provided by the President in the event of a flu pandemic, questions remain as to whether major disaster assistance would be available. An analysis of the Stafford Act suggests that this issue was not addressed by Congress when it drafted the current definition of a major disaster, and that neither inclusion nor exclusion of flu pandemics from major disaster assistance is explicitly required by the current statutory language.
"In the 109th Congress, ? 210 of S. 3721 would have made any outbreak of infectious disease explicitly eligible for major disaster assistance, but it was not
"Historically, regulatory approaches to natural disaster mitigation have been created in the aftermath of specific disasters. For instance, the world's first city building code was created in the wake of the Great Fire of
London, and the U.S. Congress enacted flood control rules for the Lower Mississippi after the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. In this Article, Rutherford H. Platt discusses how natural disasters have informed society's
understanding of natural resource management and land use planning over the last several centuries. He examines the evolution of single use policies into multiple use management, deconstructs federal disaster policies, and advocates for ecological cities. He concludes with a reminder to address natural disaster
mitigation—indeed, all of modern urban planning—with comprehensive policies addressing the full range of urban needs."—Editors' Summary.
"In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush established the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council (HSC). In his June 2002 proposal for a Department of Homeland Security, President Bush appeared to anticipate the continued operation of both of these entities. However, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which mandated the new department, statutorily rechartered the HSC as an agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Thereafter, the HSC disappeared from the public record, and its status today remains uncertain. Recently, some have called for the merger of the HSC with the National Security Council."—Summary.
"The term natural disaster is a misnomer. As Anna K. Schwab and David J. Brower note in this Article, disasters do not occur naturally,
they occur only where humans have placed themselves in the way of natural hazard events. Therefore, decisions about the way human environments are initially constructed can mitigate the effects of natural hazard events. They distinguish between resistance and resilience, explaining that attempts to resist forces of nature by trying to contain or control nature itself have largely been
unsuccessful. By contrast, resilience efforts, such as hazard avoidance, environmental
preservation, and education and outreach, reduce vulnerability to natural hazard events. The authors explain a range of resilience techniques and discuss hazard mitigation planning under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000."—Executive Summary.
"This paper investigates the political economy of FEMA's post-9/11 merger with the Department of Homeland Security. Using panel data for the post-DHS merger but pre-Katrina period, this paper examines how FEMA's much-debated reorganization has impacted the strong political influences on disaster declaration and relief spending identified by Garrett and Sobel (2003) before FEMA's reorganization. The authors find that although politically-important states for the president continue to have a higher rate of disaster declaration, disaster expenditures are no longer higher in states with congressional representation on FEMA oversight committees. These results suggest reorganization has reduced political pressure within FEMA."—Abstract