FEMA logistics contractors must track shipments, Chertoff says
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a series of measures to improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s emergency response capabilities, including the deployment of modern logistics systems to help the much-maligned agency distribute supplies.
Well-publicized FEMA failures after Hurricane Katrina last August included hundreds of trucks laden with ice for victims sitting for days and being re-routed around the country multiple times before some of them eventually were instructed to take their load to a cold storage facility in Maine, and a team of doctors that sat in Atlanta for a week without being deployed to devastated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama.
The Bush administration has responded to intense criticism for its failure to prepare and respond to the Hurricane Katrina disaster by requesting a 10 percent increase in FEMA’s budget, improving communications, procurement processes and logistics.
Chertoff said DHS will establish a more sophisticated and specialized logistics management system modeled on systems used in the private sector to track shipments of material and equipment, manage inventories and ensure timely delivery.
In addition to supply chain software, DHS will create a logistics network and warehouse system to make sure supplies are in place and can be quickly replenished in the event of another disaster.
“DHS must have some of the same skill sets that 21st century companies in the private sector have to routinely track, monitor and dispatch commodities where they are needed,” Chertoff told a conference of emergency management professionals in Washington.
After Katrina, DHS officials acknowledged that companies such as Wal-Mart did a much better job quickly getting relief supplies to the area, as well as replenishing their own stores.
DHS will work to quickly “put agreements into place before the need arises again to ensure a network of relief products, supplies and transportation support that can be tracked and managed,” Chertoff said.
“In other words, we are going to insist this year, as we go into contracting, that we are going to have as a capability with anybody who is carrying our goods and services real-time visibility to where those deliveries are, when they’re going to arrive, and, if necessary, the ability to redirect those, if the emergency so requires.
“In effect, we are building a command and control structure that will allow FEMA to ensure supplies get to the people that need them the most.”
The 2006 hurricane season begins in June.