tv Hearing on FEMA Preparedness CSPAN April 12, 2016 9:56pm-11:14pm EDT
blurring lines between politics and entertainment. this is beginning live at 7:00 eastern on wednesday morning. join the discussion. next, fema's deputy administrator talks about cuts to the agency part of the homeland security. other topics include first responders, transportation of hazardous material and fema training. the subcommittee hearing is an hour and fifteen minutes. >> i call this hearing to order. good afternoon and welcome to the panel. thanks for joining us today. this committee is charged with oversight of all federal spending, which we accomplished through hearings like this one and through regular reports that are provided by various agencies that also help us to oversee government and its spending. today, we're examining the spending at the federal emergency level agency and the
need to make reforms in that spending. given that our government borrows about a million dollars every minute and has a $19 trillion debt, waste at fema and grant programs administered by fema has been described in detail by senator coburn, gao, dhs and inspector general. one of our witnesses today, inspector general roth, found in an report issued today, maryland bought computer it did nothing with for nearly a year and a half. in 2012, senator coburn reviewed one fema grant program and concluded the program is struggling to demonstrate how it is making cities less vulnerable to attack and more prepared if one were to occur despite receiving federal funding. after ten years, a clear danger for the urban area security initiative, grant program is
that it would be transformed from a risk-based program into an entitlement program for states and cities. i think that risk still exists and that many states are subplanting some of their typical expenditures that they would commonly pay for themselves with federal money. i don't think to this day we've adequately corrected the deficiencies that dr. coburn found. just last month, inspector general roth released a report that had 333 recommendations for reform to the grant programs at fema. howev however, only found four permanent changes in which these recommendations came forward. despite reform over a five-year period, little in the way of reform appears to have occurred. we had a hearing on this in 2013 in which we went through some of the various forms of waste occurring at fema. even since that hearing, we
still continue to have problems. $280,000 was recently spent for a bear cat armored vehicle in dover. we complained of a $600,000 bear cat armored vehicle for keen. i guess new hampshire is ready for the next invasion. we also found recently -- or the inspectors have found $1.7 million for unused radios and generators and 174,000 for unused radios in d.c. this is since we last meant to talk about waste. every dollar wasted makes a difference two taxpayers. right now, fema is more than $20 billion in debt because of the flood insurance program. disaster spending often far outpaces the annual funding congress supplies leading to supplemental funding every year or so. fema has provided more than $40 billion in preparedness grants since 2001. these grants flow primarily to state and local agencies who seem to be using these funds for
things that they would never purchase with their own money, such as the 13 snow cone machines senator coburn found were bought by some michigan counties. small communities are using these funds to buy armored vehicles. local communities love federal grants because they don't have to tax their local constituents to pay for the spending. they simply hide the grants in the massive $19 trillion debt. for this reason, we must be diligent in insisting that local communities needs be largely paid for by local taxes. a significant amount of the spending is also due plik tif from other departments. $650 million handed out to the department of justice last year. i expect general roth, inspector general roth will give us much more insight into some of these problems today. i hear a lot about fema from our
constituents and about flood maps, a neighbor of mine has a house at the local lake and his house is about -- oh, i think it's about 60 feet above the level of a dam and yet fema's map has him in the flood area and asks him to spend more money on insurance although it's hard to concede that it's going to flood. i hear that the updated flood maps are not clear enough for county officials to make informed decisions. i hear it takes far too long for counties to receive dispersement from disaster recovery work. perhaps if we were not buying bear cat armored vehicles, we would be able to take care of these problems. i would certainly welcome any comments at this time from our ranking member senator baldwin. >> thank you, chairman paul, for working with me to hold this important hearing to examine the federal emergency management agencies efforts to assist states in preparing for
terrorism and natural disasters. i would like to also thank our witnesses for being here today. we have learned from the attacks in brussels and paris and san bernardino that we face critical and evolving threats as a nation. not only do we face new risks of terrorism, we also face ongoing threats of natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. fema is charged with the critical role of ensuring our first responders have the tools and recourses they need to prevent, prepare for and respond to all hazards. for nearly 40 years, fema has implemented robust programs to increase states' capabilities to protect against disasters. notably, fema provides critical federal preparedness grant funding as well as realtime
training and exercises for first responders. i think all of our states and indeed the country have benefited from this critical assistance. however, as i said in previous subcommittee hearings, we must continually assess and evaluate our programs to ensure that we are addressing our nation's priorities in the most efficient and effective manner possible. thank you again for being here, mr. manning, to discuss ways that fema can continue to prepare first responders for new and emerging threats as well as increase oversight of its programs. one area of particular importance to me and my home state of wisconsin and certainly many other states across the country is the significant increase in the transportation of crude oil by rail. at a higher rate than ever before, we are seeing this
volatile substance traveling in rail cars past homes, schools and businesses. with increased volume comes increased risk and last november, two trains carrying hazardous materials derailed in the state of wisconsin spilling hundreds of gallons of crude oil in one case and thousands of gallons in ethanol in another. fortunately, nothing caught fire and nobody was hurt. however, in one of the instances, 35 families were evacuated from their homes. we have seen other derailments across the country, including in illinois, west virginia, north dakota, alabama and virginia just in the past year. these instances pose an immense threat to communities in the environment. for example, this past weekend, a train derailed in wisconsin. no one was hurt and this
particular -- these train cars were not carrying hazardous material. but it's not enough to rely on luck. and we have to have sufficient plans in place to respond to derailments, including the worst case scenarios. now, i'm proud to have included a number of provisions in the recently passed highway bill to improve first responder access to information about these trains and it's really critical that the department of transportation implement the reforms as soon as possible. however, we must do more to address the significance and security concern and it's why i requested that the inspector general audit whether the department of homeland security has established sufficient plans and coordination efforts to effectively respond to and recover from railway accidents
involving hazardous materials. i look forward to the results of that audit and to hearing from our witnesses about what more we can do to respond to this emerging threat. i am also concerned by a recent department of homeland security office of general report that found that fema has not adequately analyzed recurring oig recommendations to implement permanent changes to improve oversight of homeland security grant program. specifically, the ig found that while fema tracks specific audit recommendations on a state-by-state basis, fema has no proactively discovered trends engaged in root cause analysis and implement corrective action over the entire program. like the ig, i am concerned that states could be repeating the same mistakes and that we run
the risk of money not being spent for it is intended purpose. similarly, i am concerned about a gao report that found fema does not comprehensively collect or monitor the status of corrective actions made by federal departments that participate in national level exercises. while fema has made progress in dress addressing this issue, more needs to be done to track corrective action to ensure that fema has an up to date outlook of national preparedness. i look forward to hearing from you, mr. manning, on how fema plans to improve oversight of the homeland security grant program and track the status of corrective actions made by federal departments. and i want to, again, thank chairman paul for providing us this opportunity to discuss these important issues and our witnesses for taking part in the discussion. it's my hope that when we leave
here today, we have concrete ways to improve preparedness efforts for first responders, strengthen oversight of the fema programs and deliver our nation's priorities in the most efficient and ee specifffective possible. thank you. >> thank you. our first witness today will be mr. timothy manning from fema. mr. manning is the deputy administrator for fema for protection and national preparedness. before his confirmation, he was head of the new mexico department of homeland security and prior to that worked in a number of other emergency management and other capacities at the state and local level. mr. manning, thank you for your testimony today. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ranking member baldwin, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about how fema supports states in preparing for terrorism and natural disasters. as a first responder, i can
assure you that we at fema remain committed to ensuring that our citizens have the tools they need. in the past year alone, the u.s. has experienced historic drought, malicious cyberattacks, extensive flooding, wild fires and shootings and long with other numerous events and the tragic events in paris and brussels shows how important it is for us to be ready to protect against and respond and recover from complex, coordinated terrorist attacks. with such a wide-ranging array of threats and hazards, we must work together to leverage all of our collective resources at every level of government in order to achieve our goal of a resilient nation. with that in mind, i'd like to tell you about the things that we are doing to address these challenges. fema is working with every state in large urban area to identify
their specific risks, set outcome based targets and assess their capabilities. they identify remaining gaps in their capability which then drive investments across their jurisdiction and in local resources and mutual aid planning. providing $1.6 billion to address capability gaps and risk and capability data to ensure that grant dollars are being used for preparedness. in addition to preparing grant funds, they helpful fill capability gaps through our training and assistance programs. they aid first responders and emergency managers and mitigation and response recovery mission areas. in 2015 alone, fema achieved over 2 million course completions across all of our training programs which include the center for domestic
preparedness in alabama, the emergency national institute and partners with consortium, homeland security and rural domestic preparedness consortium in kentucky. we provide courses from online introductory level to highly specialized hands-on training for responders and fire and medical and other disciplines. including the only federally chartered weapons of mass destruction training. as risks and threats continue to evolve, we must adapt our program to meet those pressing needs. fema prepares for terrorist attacks working for the fbi and private sector partners to assist communities through a series of counterterrorism awareness workshops, participants from multiple disciplines discuss and analyze capabilities to respond to an attack involving a coordinated assault against multiple targets. they work through scenarios to
identify gaps in their current plans and capabilities and develop mitigation strategies. today, we've delivered 23 workshops with participation from more than 5,000 responders and officials, most recently in st. louis, missouri. another way that it has adapted to emerging threats with the rail shipment of crude oil since 2008 which has resulted in an increase threat of spills, explosions and other incidents. fema collaborated with the 48 contiguous states, the epa and other components of the homeland security to define the biggest capability gaps related to crude oil incidents. this allowed us to target federal resources to the most critical needs. fema offers multiple hands-on and virtual training opportunities related to hazardous materials and crude incidents through partnership with the transportation technology center, in pueblo, colorado, as well as the center
for domestic preparedness. fema worked with the usdot, coast guard and epa to design an exercise series known as operation safe delivery. specifically addressing crude oil incidents. in total, nearly 1500 responders from around the country participated in either training or exercise related to crude oil incidents in 2015. we also recognize the past events are not an accurate way to target resources so jurisdictions around the country will be able to handle a wide range of incidents. we're currently analyzing the 2015 risk and capability data gathered from our state partners and we'll use that to drive future decisions on training, exercise and technical assistance, ensuring that we are effectively using the highest priority needs. we look forward to working with you all to that end. thank you again for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to any questions the committee may have.
>> thank you. our second witness is mr. john roth, inspector general of the department of homeland security. mr. roth was confirmed in 2014 after two years of service as the director of the office of criminal investigations for the fda. prior to his work, he served with distinction for some 25 years in the department of justice in places ranging from eastern michigan to paris, france. thank you for taking the time for your testimony today. >> good afternoon, chairman paul, ranking member baldwin and members of the subcommittee. thank you for inviting me here to testify today. my testimony today will discuss our audit work with regard to fema preparedness grants. fema, homeland security grant programs assist states in preparation for terrorist attacks and other emergencies. fema's responsibility for partnering with states to coordinate grants, training and
exercise to help ensure preparedness. these grant programs fund a range of preparedness activities including planning, organization, equipment purchases, training exercise and management and administration. from fiscal years 2009 to '14, fema allocated $7.6 billion in these grant funds to assist grantees if achieving program goals. we have completed audits of fema grants in 58 states and territories. in most instances, with some notable exceptions, the grantees worked in conformance with federal law. however, as with any large, diverse program, we continue to identify issues in awarding the expenditure and monitoring of the grants cht the issues we have found are best described in five categories. first, poor development of metrics. many states did not develop fully measurable and achievable goals and objectives. rather, they had many broad base
goals and objectives with no timeline for completion and few concrete measures to determine if the goals and objectives were met. second, incomplete or nonexistent and assessment of risks and capabilities. to help make smart decisions on how best to use the grant funds, states need to do a better job for what they face and develop appropriate capability targets to address them. fema, in turn, needs to ensure that it reviews for accuracy and completeness. third, untimely obligation of funds. we found numerous instances of fema awarding grants but then the states delaying and distributing the money to the recipient of the grant. we have had a number of instances in which months and sometimes over a year would pass before the states awarded the funds to the subgrantees. fourth, insufficient management controls. states required to monitor activities to ensure compliance.
however, we have found a number of instances in which the state had not adequately managed the grant process, leading to a lack of assurance that the funds were being spent wisely. lastly, improper expenditures. audits have found improper expenditures. these grants were awarded so that states and local agencies can prepare for and protect against acts of terrorism, major disasters and other emergencies. however, we found that grant funds were not always spent for their intended purposes or well supported. while fema has worked to improve the grant processes and oversight, our audits continue to find the same issues in state after state. in the audits resulting from these territories, 91% of the recommendations identified similar challenges year after year. notwithstanding this, fema had not taken the lessons from our audits to create a systemic and institutional change in the manner in which it oversees the
program. fema tracks specific audit recommendations but is not taking the extra step of proacti proactively analyzing the corrective action over the entire program rather than state by state. thus, fema and the states repeating the same mistakes over and over again and the money is not being spent appropriately. fema resolved only four of the 333 recommendations related to program oversight. less than 2% through permanent changes through the homeland security grant program. this shows a troubling lack of commitment. gi we recently conducted a risk-based analysis to determine the highest priority grantees for the next grant audits. fortunately, fema has agreed to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for
conducting an ongoing analysis. this plan will include clearly d dil lynn knee ated programs. it expects to complete this program by december 2016. mr. chairman, this includes my prepared statement. i welcome any other questions that you and other members of the subcommittee may have. >> thank you. our third witness is mr. chris curry from the government accountability office. mr. curry is the director of emergency management national preparedness and critical infrastructure protection for the homeland security and justice team at gao. thank you for your testimony. >> thank you, chairman paul and other members of the committee today. it's an honor to be here to talk about national preparedness. i think it's important to first talk about the progress fema has made over the last decade. before 2006, fema was not
responsible for national preparedness. the post katrina act of 2006 changed that. it gave fema several broad responsibilities in this area. first, was to implement the national preparedness system across all levels of government. second was to assess the capabilities and preparedness of state and local partners. and third was to manage and provide all of the department of homeland security preparedness grants to these partners. progress across these areas has been mixed. fema has made progress in establishing the structures necessary to coordinate preparedness across several departments. for example, fema issued the national response framework in 2012. this set up the 15 emergency support functions or esfs that deliver response capabilities and designated a lead federal department as coordinator as well. to test these functions, teamfe
has identified gaps. challenges still exist in this area, though. fema cannot direct other federal department's preparedness or resources. it relies on coordination to do that. for example, fema coordinates national exercises. but we found that other agencies don't always report back on actions they took to close the gaps identified during the exercises that senator baldwin mentioned in his opening statement. we also found that esf coordinating agencies, like d.o.t., lacked demonstrating preparedness. we recommended that fema better track these corrective actions and provide guidance of the departments to help them in their respective areas. now, fema has implemented some of the recommendations and is taking steps to close the rest of them. now, switching to preparedness grants, the story has not been quite as positive. first, we found a risk of
duplication and a need for better coordination across these preparedness grants. these grants share similar goals and fund similar projects and sometimes provide funds to the same grantees. to be fair, in some ways they were designed this way. we found that fema lacks the data and controls to review and compare grant applications across programs which risks unnecessary duplication. we recommend that fema collect more information to fix the problem. fema has taken some steps to temporarily patch this problem with updates to its current grant management system. however, the agency's long-term solution to this problem really hinges on full implementation of its new nondisaster grant management system. however, this system has been delayed for years. and is now not expected to be in full use until sometime next year. as a result, our recommendation likely won't be addressed anytime soon. i also would like to think about assessing state and local
capabilities and measuring the impact of grants. mr. roth talked about this as well. it's true, it's difficult to measure preparedness and assess capabilities but it's not impossible. and with over $40 billion provided since 9/11, it's also very important, fema has taken steps such as requiring states to complete annual preparedness reports and rolling these all up into one national preparedness report and developed a tool that states can use to assess their risks and capability needs. these are good steps since states are in the best position to assess their needs and risks. however, when it comes to allocating the grants, fema relies on the capability requirements and level preparedness. this makes it difficult to ensure that data are both accurate and comparable across states. it makes it difficult to ensure grants go to the areas of greatest need across the country. we've recommended that fema complete a more quantitative
national preparedness assessment of these capability gaps at each level and direct grant funding accordingly. however, fema disagrees with this approach and does not plan to aress this recommendation as we've written it. this completes my prepared remarks. i'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. >> i'd like to introduce our last witness this afternoon. john drake is deputy administrator of the pipeline and hazardous material safety administration, other wine known as femsa. he protects the environment by directing the safe transportation of hazardous materials. femsa regulates 2 million lines of gas and hazardous materials by land, sea and air. before joining femsa, mr. drake
served as the deputy assistant director at the u.s. department of transportation where he over saw policy implementation with a specific focus on freight, surface reauthorization and safety policy. mr. drake also worked as the director of governmental affairs at the safety administration. before joining the u.s. department of transportation, john drake was a capitol hill staffer for nearly a decade working on the senate committee on counterscience and transportation and the house committee on transportation and infrastructure. he hold as bachelor's degree in philosophy from the university of california at santa cruz. i thank you so much for being here. we look forward to your testimony. >> thank you, ma'am. good afternoon. mr. chairman paul, ranking member baldwin and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify before
you today on the pipeline hazardous materials administration's efforts to ensure the safe and reliability of transportation by rail and prepare first responders involving derailments. every day, more than 6 million tons of energy products and other hazardous materials move across our nation. many of these materials, like batteries, pesticides, fertilizers and gasoline and cleaning products are essential components to our daily lives. but an unplanned release of any of these materials can cause unacceptable harm to our environment. that is why it's the mission of femsa to direct the safe transportation of materials. in recent years, femsa along with the department of transportation increase affected communities along railways many ways from increased traffic at crossings to concerns about likes and spills and
derailments. further, these oil trains are also carrying crude oil per train than ever before. safety is the department of transportation's top priority. that is why we have taken more than 30 actions over the last two years to ensure the safe transportation of crude oil. most recently, femsa working issued a comprehensive rule designed to reduce the consequences and probability of accidents involving trains transporting petroleum and ethanol products. this includes new tank car design and speed requirements, braking systems and routing. this work builds on this agency's previous actions to help ensure that communities and emergency responders are prepared in the event of a derailment. for example, we work closely with local law enforcement, emergency responders and
hazardous material professionals to share information and support their efforts to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials. we also have a grants program that provides approximately $28 million per year to states and emergency responders to help prepare for and respond to incidents including pipeline spills and train derailments. these grants include critical training for emergency responders and professionals who may be called on to respond to an incident. we also recently released a document called the tripper, which is a training document provided that is a free resource developed in coordination with fema and other public safety agencies at the state and local level that leverages the expertise of responders and operators to help better prepare hazmat incidents. other emergency training efforts include the work with fema and u.s. fire administration to develop guidelines for hazardous
materials training to establish standards to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of hazmat training for first responders. we work with canada and mexico to prepare the guidebook, the go-to manual for first responders that is essentially the first and primary document that they will use in responding to a hazmat release. finally, we are grateful for the support. an act provides the most recent actions and support to improve the safety of oil trains and includes new provisions that will help us better prepare communities going forward. we are working aggressively to implement these provisions. keeping communities safe requires constant vigilance, a comprehensive approach to safety and openness to the use of new technology. we look forward to working with you all and the other members of krg to continue to advance our important safety commission and ensure communities are well prepared to deal with
emergencies involving hazmat. thank you again for inviting me to appear. and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you all. mr. manning, in the inspector general's testimony, he reports that fema only resolved four of the 333 recommendations related to program oversight, less than 2% through permanent changes. his conclusion is that this show as troubling lack of commitment to the program oversight. your response? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think i would respectfully disagree with my colleague from the inspector general office that we have a great deal more changes with programatic design. the entire development of the system and the elements which the grants are designed to achieve were all made with the intent of addressing issues that have recurred through audit findings and through technical
assistance and working with our partners at the state and local governments with the grantees. while four major changes have been made to the funding announcements to the grant document, a great deal of those -- of the findings come, i believe, from matters of training with the grantees, matter of interaction with the grant management staff at the grantee level and we have carried out a great number of technical assistance visits and interactions with the grantees to account for those issues and to continue to change the way we do technical assistance through really all of those programs. >> was there a way to objectively measure whether or not we're achieving our goal or whether or not we are wasting less money, mr. roth? >> it's difficult to do that, given the nature of the exercise that they are conducting. what fema has done is put
together a process in which they attempt to measure what the gaps in the preparedness are and what the states can do to meet those gaps and i know gao, for example, has done some work with regard to that as well. >> mr. currie, you mentioned in your testimony that you believed there didn't seem to be an indication that fema was interested in the reforms. do you have a suggestion for how we'd have fema become more interested in the reforms? >> you're talking about the -- yeah, so part of this, we've been talking with fema about this for years. part of what they are doing is part of a system that we think would work effectively, you assess the risk, see what their needs are and work your way up to a quantitative measure across jurisdictions so you can see where the capability gaps are and give out the money accordingly. i think one of the things that
we've found is that there's a lot of reliance on the state's own self-reporting of their risks. and as mr. roth's work has shown and looking down into the grant, sometimes those risk assessments are not done completely and identified. we're not sure how you can allocate that based on risks if they are not identified. >> mr. roth, do you believe that any of the money is subplanting sort of the ordinary costs that police and firemen do and somehow they are becoming dependent on that for things that maybe should be raised through local taxes? >> we certainly have found examples of that in a number of the audits that we've conducted that once you sort of dive in and look at what the money was actually spent on, it wasn't justified as part of the grant program. for example, overtime for police officers in certain jur jurisdictions was not there to protect critical infrastructures but rather over time for certain kinds of things.
likewise, asset purchases would have a law enforcement quality to it but not a preparedness function. >> i guess the problem is -- and i think you're all sincere in trying to eliminate waste. i don't question sincerity. but i see this waste report that we put out and we find it everywhere. every department has got it. and then we find people who say, we're going to root out military waste but give the military $100 billion more in money. i frankly think you're not rooting out any waste unless you're resources. if i'm a mayor of a city, i only have a certain amount of money so i have to prioritize and i have an incentive. i think that's part of our problem with government as a whole, we don't really feel like we have finite resources and we say, well, it's for homeland security so we give more money or it's for emergency management and it's restricting the money in order to find the waste and
then maybe we'd listen to those talking to us about the waste because we have a finite amount of money. i have another question for mr. manning. the government's been paying for some of these stingray cell towers. are you still doing that with fema money? >> yes, sir. >> do you know how many? >> my iormation is that since the beginning of the grants, ten. >> okay. a lot of us who are concerned about privacy are worried about watching people and following them without warrants. the maryland special court of appeals ruled that people have a reasonable expectation that their cell phones will not be used as a tracking source by law enforcement. i think the federal government has gone in the positive direction by using warrants and it's my understanding that local government is able to use this without a warrant and they wind up being used for all kinds of
petty crimes. is there anything that fema is doing to protect the civil liberties from those of local law enforcement using these devices without warrants? >> mr. chairman, in regards to these particular pieces of equipment, they are on the authorized equipment list that we've developed with law enforcement and department of justice. their legal use is the responsibility of law enforcement agency that acquires them with the grant and they are subject to the provisions and oversight of the department of justice. it's their responsibility to use any equipment obtained under these grants legally and with the civil liberties and we have not in the matter of this equipment and we can require them to pay all of that money back on top of whatever punitive actions they have justified. >> i guess the determination would be what's legal and what's not legal. >> that's correct. >> according to this one court opinion, it's not and they are not doing it but it's still left open for local law enforcement
to do this without warrants. and there's no reason why the administration couldn't demand that of local law enforcement since we're paying for it with local money. >> mr. chairman, that's an interesting suggestion and a matter -- the matter of a leg use of the equipment is one for the department of justice but i'll contact my colleagues. >> i would appreciate it if you would look at it from the administrati administrative perspective. i think this could be done as well and if you would just give us an answer, i'd appreciate it. senator baldwin? >> thank you. mr. drake, again, thank you for being here today. as you noted in your testimony, there have been significant increases in the number of trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials. i certainly hear a lot from constituents who are along the
railways that cross wisconsin as i mentioned in my opening statement, i was proud to author a provision in the highway bill that ensures local first responders have realtime information when hazardous materials are going to be traveling through their communities and their jurisdictions of responsibility. so you had mentioned in your testimony that femsa will publish a notice of proposed rule making to address this mandate in july. and as you know, the fast act gives the department of transportation a year to issue this regulation. so i want to ask if you're confident that you will meet the december deadline. >> thank you for the question, ma'am. so a lot of the work that we have done up to the date currently has been in working with fema and other stakeholders to map out the framework by which this regulation will be
written and so at this point in time my answer to you is yes we feel confident that we will be able to meet the december deadline. >> the highway directs the u.s. department of transportation to implement rules requiring railroads to improve their worst case oil discharge response plans as soon as possible. d.o.t. first issued a notice in 2014. and in your testimony, you state that femsa estimates that the agency will publish a draft notice of proposed rule making in june of 2016. will you please let me know when we can expect a final rule on oil spill response plans for high hazard flammable trains? >> so i think there may be -- so there is currently a regulatory proposal under review, under
agency review. and i think there may be some confusion in the testimony and if so i apologize. in 2014, we looked at the appropriateness of the rail industry and it's under review and they are going to have -- they have about 90 days to review it and then i hope that we should have something out very soon afterwards. this is something that we started along with the ffht rule, the high hazard flammable transportation rule. >> thank you. in your testimony you also discussed that femsa is working with fema to implement and maintain support systems to help state and local training offices improve the quality of training including needs assessment and testing. so i'd like you to elaborate, if you can, on the needs assessment that fema and femsa are working with the states on, what
specifically goes into those assessments and how are they followed up on? >> so, a lot of the work that we do with fema -- we do a lot of coordination work, specifically on the release side of things. a lot of the materials that we develop, a lot of the preparedness planning that we do is done in coordination with fema because oftentimes they play a very important role in our efforts. to your question specifically, you know, there's a number of products that we have put forward. for example, the pipeline accident spill response plan also this new document, the tripper document that's developed in coordination with them and the idea there is to provide as best we can specific tools and resources that helps first responders better act and better respond to hazmat releases. >> okay. mr. manning, as you know, fema
serves as the coordination and policy agency and response to train incidents involving hazardous materials. as i understand it, fema is currently finalizing its oil and chemical incident annex to the operation response and recovery plan to further clarify responsibilities in this area. can you discuss this annex and the date you expect it to be complete? >> yes, senator. so the annex is ann next to the federal inner agencies operations plan, which is a document to the response framework and these are documents that describe how the federal government comes together to deliver assistance to a governor when they would request in times of emergency. these plans are executed by fema, drafted by fema on behalf of the interagencies. so they are a government-wide plan. it's in the last stages of
review on comments received across the inner agency, i don't have a hard date. i would expect it in the next few weeks, certainly within the month, as i understand. >> thank you. i appreciate the training that fema provides to first responders and it's why i remain concerned about significant proposed cuts to fema's preparedness programs in the president's fiscal year budget request, particularly a 63% cut to the national domestic preparedness consortium. you mentioned this program specifically in your testimony as an important component of our preparedness efforts. as you know, this consortium funds the crude by rail training program. how does fema plan to address this gap in training if the president's request ends up being enacted? well, senator, the president's
2017 budget request balances priorities across the entire homeland security enterprise. our training -- the training regime across the entire homeland security world with our close partners in the national domestic preparedness consortium but we have partners and assets in our continuing training grant applicants and a great number of partners in state and local governments who are increasingly using grant resources from other programs that you've heard of from earlier before today to do more training. just in the last few years, for example, ttci, the transportation technology center, has 856 people through their crude oil training. cdp has had an additional 300 crude oil specific training. the center based in kentucky has had 8,000 -- more than 8,000 people go through rail training.
and the international association of firefighters, for example, with grants that they've received from us have done almost over 6,000 offerings of hazardous materials training as well. we are constantly balancing the requirements against all different threats and hazardses across the country. the capability gaps that we've identified in the training element particularly, you've heard of references to our capability gaps. we look at that as capabilities as a combination of the people training to do a job and the equipment to do that job and we evaluate those capability gaps, it may be the right number of people and the right amount of equipment but the wrong training. so we focus resources on getting additional seats available for people to get trained in a particular subject matter. other areas that may be the right number of people in training but they are absent equipment so we focus on particular lines of equipment to build that capability. so as we continue to work with these difficult decisions across balancing funding priorities, we
have to continue to use the tools that we've developed through this national preparedness system to apply the resources where we think we can get the most effective and efficient use of those funds. >> senator heitkamp? >> thank you for including me in this hearing although i don't usually sit on the subcommittee but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. north dakota was the site of a spectacular oil train fire. the first responders there were, in fact, volunteers and our fire chief said when i asked him what was the single most important kind of training that you had, he said the preparedness training that was done by fema. i think that when we're looking especially with an interstate carrier -- and i'm sensitive to the chairman's comments about what is the federal role and
what is the state role but as a former tax collector, i know that i ran into the four r's act. it greatly restricted on how states could tax carriers, whether pipelines or railroads. they did that because they wanted a system of interstate carriers and this was a rule under the interstate commerce clause. it also means, if you restrict the funding sources, you may have to rethink as you said your tough choices. i share senator baldwin's concern that this training that chief mcclain talked about, which was so critical to his ability to respond in a way that not only protected his community but protected the lives of his firefighters is something that's on the chopping block, especially in the context of an interstate carrier. and so i just want to tell you that i have a lot of concerns
about a budget proposal that doesn't add quitly fund these grant programs and we're going to be fighting pretty hard to make sure, especially as it relates to the movement of hazardous material in interstate commerce, that the federal government see their role a little differently. i want to raise an issue that i've been raising since i've been here, probably come to it a little honestly given that my father was a volunteer fire chief in a small community for about 25 years. the vast majority of land in the united states is covered by a volunteer fire source. in north dakota, about 96% of all firefighters are volunteers who don't get paid a dime. but we don't want them untrained either. what they do is hazardous. i want to make sure that we have the tools that we need. some of those tools are these grants. and i'm concerned as deputy
secretary heard in my state that these programs are difficult for volunteers to navigate. and i'm wondering, either for you, mr. manning, or you mr. currie, if you could respond to how you could fashion a grant program, provided we still have it, that could take some of these high administrative costs. you know, frequently in these small grants, the money doesn't go where it belongs in part because you guys are holding them accountable and we applaud that, the two gentlemen in the middle, but we do see high costs to apply for the grants, low dollar amounts which then get spread out over services in a much narrow fashion. so i'm wondering whether you guys are looking at what you can do for the rural firefighters to make that more accessible. >> thank you, senator. i myself was a volunteer firefighter for most of my life, actually, before i came to washington.
and i am very cognizant of how difficult it can be to interact with the state and federal government requirements on a part-time basis, manage that nights and weekends on top top full time job. and as you rightly pointed out, we have a responsibility at fema, and in the federal government, to ensure that grant money is being used appropriately and we're reducing or eliminating any possible elements of waste or duplication, but we are absolutely committed to making the programs as efficient and easy as possible while balancing those needs and those requirements. we are constantly evaluating all of our policies and rules and grant applications and the grant processing, and the things like the bisers and all of the reporting things you have to do with getting a grant, with how can that be done by somebody
potentially in the wee hours of the night on an old computer with a poor internet connection. it would be very easy to have a system where everybody just interacts online, but the reality is, most fire departments in the world and most emergency management organizations, and most communities don't have that infrastructure. so we are absolutely committed to balancing both the oversight requirement and making sure that we appropriately adjudicate all of the audit findings and the things that our colleagues find when they're doing site visits with the efficiency with which the grantees can interact with us in those manners. >> i just think many times for the smaller agencies, it just becomes a non-starter, and as a result, we see old equipment, unless the community steps up, as many communities in my state have, to provide the resources.
but we should all be thinking about what that fire service looks like into the future, because we're seeing fewer and fewer volunteers stepping up. we're seeing fewer and fewer folks willing to, you know, kind of leave their work, or they don't work where the fire service is in their community. and this is going to be a challenge, kind of, going forward. and if we reduce the training support that we receive from fema and from femsa, if we reduce the incentives because no one's gonna want to fight a fire without training -- or they shouldn't want to fight a fire without training -- we will be jeopardizing a critical piece of infrastructure in this country that we've relied on for a lot of years. so i want to thank the chairman and the ranking member for holding this hearing and put on everybody's agenda the volunteer fire service and the challenges that we have. they serve the vast majority of
area in this country as covered by a volunteer fire service. so if we're going to continue to maintain that critical first response, we're going to need to work together to fashion some opportunities for the future. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. and we'll ask a few more questions and wind up here. you know, we have so much waste throughout government. i think i have a great deal of admiration for the insperktors general and the gao to look at the waste, but i find that it continues and i don't see a lot of connection to actual reform, that we actually fix things. for years now, watchdogs have said there's as much as $10 billion of duplicate spending in government and yet it continues. is there really a mechanism in which we can enforce reform and actually make it work? do you have suggestions on how we would fix government from the standpoint of getting those who are watching over government to
actually get policy implemented? why don't we start with you, mr. roth. >> thank you for that. one of the things that we have found in the course of doing a number of these audits with fema, is that we'll make a finding of question costs, for example, against a sub grantee. the fema administrator has the ability to waive our finding, not go against the state or the locality to re-collect the money that was misspent. we think that authority is being used in a fashion that really is counterproductive in that the states and the localities really have no incentive to spend the money correctly. so we will find an instance, for example, where a bid was not put out for competitive bidding, for example, it was a sole-sourced contract, or it was a contract where it was cost, plus a percentage of cost that was simply let. and when you don't have the money at stake, it's frankly
quite easy to do that. >> would you say this is common across agencies, then, not just fema, there are other agencies with the same kind the waiver system for making mistakes on no-bid contracts or overpaying for something, or paying for something that was inappropriate? would that be a bigger problem than just with fema? >> well, certainly in the grant area, it's a significant problem. and i was speaking directly about the administrator's authority to simply waive those costs and findings, but certainly in our other acquisition work, we have found those kinds of things to be problematic. but dhs as an entity is improving in those areas. sole-source contracts have decreased over time in a fairly significant way. >> mr. currie? >> yes, sir. in general, i think part of the problem is, a lot of these problems that are so large and complex, and they're not easy to fix. it's not that folks don't want to fix them. i'll give an example.
when fema was given all of the preparedness grants, it had to figure out how to manage these. and it didn't have the i.t. systems to do that. one of the things we found, they don't have a way to review cross-grant applications. they were all separate. so implement being a new system is challenging and complex. because of that, these issues require long-term sustained oversight and attention. and that's what we've seen in our work, it's not until it's said over and over and over again and the congress says it over and over and over again and the agency starts paying attention to it and dedicating resources to it, but it doesn't happen quickly and i think this is a good example. >> i like the idea on the waivers. when you finish your reports, do you come up with legislative ways to fix problems? >> we typically do not.
we recommend certain things to the department, because that is our oversight capability. sometimes we'll recommend that the department try to get legislative fixes, but it's largely mostly recommendations to the department to change the way they operate. >> mr. manning, do you have a comment on the waiver idea? >> well, senator, i think that -- i think we used waiver judiciously and appropriately. when we have examples and we are made aware of examples from the i.g. or become aware on our own accord of matters of intentional or malicious fraud or waste or where there are cases where they were -- regulations were flaunted by a grantee, we recoup those funds. we have many examples of where we do that, probably more often than where we waive them. we have the example from the public assistance program where
there's more contracting and disaster rebuilding programs. in those cases it's a much more complicated web of authorities and responsibilities and grantees and sub grantee relationships and i'd be happy to speak with the i.g. on that on specific examples, but there are many that we go back and forth on, absolutely. but i want to say that we are absolutely committed to adjudicating findings as they come along. the 596 recommendations you heard referenced earlier, we've closed 93% of those. we were focused on closing those audit findings as they came up over the course of the nine years that led to that number. along the way, we made changes, we continue to make changes to the training, to the grantees on how to carry out the requirements and the way the programs, the regulations are structured, but the way the larger government policies that are being carried out by the grants are structured to make them more easily achieved by the grantees to make the audit
findings fewer. absolutely committed. >> are either of the inspectors general or those that are auditing aware of recent instances where there have been inspections that are done where we've gone forward with legislative overhaul and significantly used the recommendations to actually reform any agency? >> we have in a number of areas. for example, and this is one just off the top of my head radio interoperability. dhs, the sub components, they didn't have the ability to talk to each other on a common radio channel, notwithstanding the fact that one of the reason dhs exist system to have that unity of effort. we have done two audits. the first one shows a 99.8% failure rate in the ability to talk to each others. two years later we came and saw that the situation was not particularly improved.
as a result of that, legislation was passed at the end of last year, mandating, essentially congressional report, so enhanced oversight by congress, as well as specific guide posts to try to get towards interoperabili interoperability. >> thank you, and thank you to the panel. senator baldwin? >> i have a question regarding metrics and standards. fema obviously is the federal government leader in assessing our nation's capability to respond to disasters and it's vital that fema have end-to-end metrics and assessments for how actions taken by federal, state and local partners contribute to the national preparedness goal. i think you did a good job, mr. manning, in your testimony of laying out the threat and risk assessment that fema requires states to conduct as the state
and national preparedness reports that come from those assessments. however, i want to make sure that we're continuously evaluating the metrics and that we have in place -- well, to make sure that we're always making progress towards our national preparedness goals. so i want to start actually with you, mr. currie. in your assessment, how effectively has fema integrated grant program metrics with its evaluation of progress towards the national preparedness goal? >> well -- >> and what recommendations specifically would you have for fema to improve its metric structure? >> well, one of the things that we found is that most of the metrics are what we would call output-based metrics versus the real outcome measures and fema would probably debate that point, but output meaning, we gave money to this and this jurisdiction, we know this jurisdiction purchased this, it was on the improved products list. so now i think there has been
some effort by fema to try to tie those purchases to the core capabilities, the 32 core capabilities. but as i mentioned before, a lot of that is based on self-reported information and self-reported assessments by the state. which is not a bad thing, the state is in a good position to assess their own capabilities. i think what we would like to see and what we haven't seen so far is a more quantitative assessment by capability of each level, so we can compare that across jurisdictions so we know when we have to give out $1.6 billion across the whole country, that we're giving it out to the areas where we need the capabilities the most. >> mr. roth, i know you may not have looked into this issue specifically, given the time frame of your audits, but if you do have information generally, how would you assess fema's overall metrics structure? >> we have not done that.
what we've done really was take a look at the states, the grantees, what were their metrics. that's a requirement of the grant program, to understand sort of what does success look like, how do you measure it, how do you get there, it has to be specific, time-bound, achievable. those kinds of things. what we found almost universally is that the metrics that the states were using were none of those things. and fema had not been enforcing those kinds of metrics. that's the only thing that we looked at. i know gao, we try to separate some of our duties to not overlap. >> avoiding duplication is a worthy goal. mr. manning, do you think there's room for fema to improve its metrics? if so, how? and again, i'm specifically referring to metrics for fema's individual programs and metrics for how those programs feed into the national preparedness goal. >> thank you, senator. and i can start with saying that
with a temporal caveat, i don't disagree with what my colleagues said, they're describing a situation that was accurate circa 2009 into '10. which is why we developed the system that's put in place, this national preparedness system, where we're trying to achieve the goal. there was no policy linkage between the outputs that the grants were achieving, you know, the states had individual homeland security strategies. each state had a strategic plan for what they were trying to achieve. but there was no national overarching arc over all of those. you had 56 different strategies for the states, territory, and the district. and there was no linkage, and you couldn't compare. and then separately, there were national preparedness programs, things like target capability list, where there was an idea suggested by mr. currie, whether a common set of metrics,
everybody jurisdiction should be able to do this much hazardous materials response and everybody was working toward that. the problem was, they were divorced. there was no linkage between the two. the grantss were allowed to achieve those target capabilities, this x number of resources, but it wasn't specific to the jurisdiction. so to senator hide camp's examples earlier, we could expect the same in a small community in north dakota as we would in new york or chicago by that standard of targets. so the goal being the capabilities to define these things, and the management system is the language, the words we use to commonly describe the resources across the country. and then the frameworks and the grants are kind of how we put those together, so this threat hazard identification process, the thira that you hear so much about, that notion is that we know that risk doesn't aggregate across the country. we can't look at the individual
risk to wisconsin and michigan and kentucky and missouri and north dakota and say here's the national risk. those are individual risks, there's a different strategic level of risks to the nation. but the capabilities do aggregate. resources aggregate. so if we can tlook at what's important, what's valuable, what's the greatest threat to a community and help that community build, that's the outcome we're trying to achieve, the people, the training, the equipment, and that they can do a job in a certain amount of time, against the threats they have, that's the whole system, happy to provide more detail. then we can look at the nation, what we've achieved and aggregate the capabilities and apply them anywhere. we can take mutual aid resources -- by we, i mean the nation, can take resources from the west coast to the east coast, from florida to north dakota. we can come together as a nation, leverage what we've build with these programs.
no one jurisdiction will ever have enough. there's not enough money to ever build enough capability to deal with everybody's worse day, but we as a nation can come together to deliver those resources and that's the system we put in place and those are the outcomes that we're trying to achieve. >> thank you. >> i had one final question. is there a formal, oral, in-person presentation of inspector reports to the agency that you're inspecting? >> it is a process. but, yes. the answer is yes. we'll have an entrance conference where we'll sort of discuss with them what we're going to try to do. during the course of the audit, we'll have communication with the agency or components involved. at the end of it, it will be an exit conference discussing what we find and the potential recommendations. then we write a draft report which goes to the component and the component will look at it and decide whether or not it's
factually accurate and whether the recommendations make sense, whether they accept them or not. that is turned into a final report, issued to congress and made public. >> so the agency will respond in writing to your nindings? >> correct. >> and you present it to the head of fema, they'll hear an oral presentation on your findings or -- >> typically not the head of fema. it's typically somebody who say subject matter expert within sort of whatever component that we're looking at. i do brief the secretary and the deputy secretary on our significant reports and i typically try to have regular meetings with the component heads to discuss what we're work doing. >> right. and what's your impression, any of you, really, on i understand it has to be somewhat adversarial because you have to be independent. in the end, does it end up that way, or is there collaboration of trying to fix a problem based on the reports? >> what we try to do is balance
engagement with independence. so we'll always be independent. i always say, i'm of no use unless i'm independent. that being said, we want to work with a component, listen to a component, understand exactly what the challenges are, before we make the recommendations, because it doesn't do anybody any good to have a recommendation that will be rejected out of hand by the component. but there's lots of disagreement, as you can imagine there would be, but we think that's an appropriate level of engagement. >> okay, i think we've learned a lot from it and thank you for your testimony. the record for the hearing will remain open until five p.m., tuesday, april 26th, for any members who wish to submit additional questions. and with that, the hearing is adjourned. thank you very much, panel.
government. we'll hear from the head of the government accountability office, along with the irs, pentagon, and centers for medicare and medicaid services employees. we'll have live coverage from the house oversight committee at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span3. later in the day, the new general manager for the washington, d.c. metro system will take questions from an oversight panel about the safety problems and failed inspections the metro has had. we'll have live coverage at 2:00 p.m. eastern also on c-span3. next, a discussion about whether college students should take assessment tests. new america hosted this one hour and 40 minute event. >> good morning, everybody.
hi. thanks so much for coming. my name is kevin carey. i direct the education policy program here at new america. we really appreciate you all coming here on a rainy spring morning in washington, d.c. the subject of our event today is assessment in higher education, a seemingly technical and maybe seemingly kind of boring topic that i actually think is becoming central to a lot of the discussions we have about american higher education. and i say that because i have found that assessment of college student learning is often the place that you end up at after trying to deal with a bunch of other naughty questions in american higher education. it is not the thing that people talk about often first when they talk about college. our national conversation around college is very much focused on