Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The REAL COST of Preparedness

What is PREPAREDNESS? IMO it is the totality of the capability to do the other paradigms of response and recovery and mitigation and perhaps even prevention added to the litany of FEMA's responsibilities by PKEMA 2006 made effective at the end of March 2007. PREPAREDNESS involves personnel (staffing and training), logistics, plans, systems and processes including warning, alerting, notification and other factors. It always interested me that the former Executive Branch OEP had those initials changed to mean Office of Emergency Preparedness from the Office of Emergency Planning. Now it is also true that PREPAREDNESS is an element of resilience. It does seem to be a key recognized ingredient in HS/EM and therefore this post!

My concern is that as someone once said, perhaps General Marshall of fame in WWII, the real history of the US is "lack of preparedness"! He of course was referring to military preparedness. My concern is civil preparedness for large scale domestic disasters and catstrophic events.

There will never be adequate funding for the "worst case" situations and in fact FEMA under Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 was statutorily prohibited from worst case planning, much less preparedness. OMB enforced this restriction ruthlessly. What FEMA could have done and did not was to document its actual capability and that of its state and local partners, and Executive Branch partners. It was given authority to do that in several ways including statutory mandates and Executive Order mandates. It basically failed to do that in the past and in the present. Of interest is the first and only report on PREPAREDNESS issued by FEMA at the end of the Bush Administration. At first I thought it was rather a useless document, but after reading have now concluded it was and is more meritorious than I first thought. Whether produced by FEMA staff or contractors or combination thereof no one seems to know. It was issued in January 2009 and is available from this blogger. That report was statutorily mandated to be issued every year but that was back by PKEMA 2006 and only one has appeared. Still I recommend its reading by those with interests in PREPAREDNESS.

My issue in this post is the funding of preparedness by all those involved in various other elements of the HS/EM paradigms. This includes the STATES, the LOCALS, the NGO's, and private profit making organizations. I am going to briefly dismiss the private sector by just stating that all corporations or large scale private entities need a skilled VP for risk management which includes business continuity issue coverage, insurance, and preparedness generally. Of course the public sector also needs this coverage. Perhaps a deduction or credit for preparedness should be written into the IRC such as by allowing up to 3% of annual revenues to be utilized for defined preparedness activities once the private sector activity is recognized as having a direct role in response and recovery or mitigation for communities in the US generally or where it is located.
Perhaps this could be funded by reduction of the 10% casualty loss provisions of the IRC by a proportional amount for creditable activities. After all even the energy credits are partially based on resiliency factors and energy savings.

But as to the Public Sector and NGO's. Both these sectors must produce a budget that reveals their actual funding and budgeting for preparedness. Even if that amount is ridiculously low or high. For example, over $30B has been spent by DOD since 9/11 on so-called "Force Protection". DHS has spent almost $60B on IT investments of various kinds by how much of this is or has been devoted to computer or cyber secuirty? Congress needs to mandate budgets that reveal details about "preparedness" and if it does not why not?
I would argue that budgets broken down for the HS/EM components of all Executive Branch agencies and those in the NGO sector who get tax exempt status should reveal what is spent of Preparedness. And by the way did you know that a great deal of time and effort and money is spent on both EM and HS outside of DHS and FEMA. What was once a statutory mandate pre-DHS to reveal those expenditures on HS and EM by other Executive Branch agencies and a responsibility of OMB to report annually to Congress has been honored in the breech in the last few years. How much of the PUBLIC HEALTH budget is PREPAREDNESS. All of this should be premised on revealing actual capabilities for each component and in other words what that entity could actually do and what they have planned for. Recently I mentioned disaster housing needing a planning basis of 500K homeless. Pakistan by the way looks like up to 20 M homeless from current floods. The fact that MOTHER NATURE DOES NOT GRANT VARIANCES and that the laws of physics and chemistry cannot be repealed by anyone means that more attention needs to be paid to preparedness.
My estimate is less that 2% of the DHS budget is actually spent on preparedness. And to pick on a leading NGO with a federal charter, the ARC [American Red Cross] I estimate that less than 1% of its budget is spent on preparedness. Of course if you add to preparedness the salaries of professional ARC staff you close in on over 15%! So perhaps another suggestion is that at least 10% of the direct and overhead personnel costs must be the mininimum invested otside of training and staffing of the respective preparedness budgets of the both the federal and nonfederal entities upon which reliance is placed for response, recovery, prevention, and mitigatio.
As with all my posts hoping better minds than mine will come up with better solutions to identified problems, policies and issues.