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Research Questions

  1. Where are instances of overlap, duplication, and fragmentation among the selected constructs?
  2. Where, why, and how do overlap, duplication, and fragmentation create significant negative effects in implementation and outcomes for construct stakeholders?
  3. What strategies can FEMA implement to reduce problematic overlap, duplication, and fragmentation?

Emergency managers in the United States face a challenging operating environment characterized by more-frequent and -intense storms, extended or year-round wildfire seasons, multiple simultaneous disasters, and an ongoing global pandemic. The sheer magnitude and growing frequency of weather and climate disasters are straining the capacities, capabilities, and systems that enable the United States to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

To support the U.S. emergency management system, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other entities have created constructs — programs, grants, assessments, doctrine, and coordination bodies — at different times and in response to various events and needs. The overall number of constructs has grown, and the poor integration among them can worsen emergency management services and disaster outcomes.

Researchers reviewed 31 FEMA-selected constructs for opportunities to streamline, simplify, and strengthen the system, assessing how overlap, duplication, and fragmentation could affect implementation and outcomes. In this report, the researchers describe options for addressing the issues and impacts identified. Some options are designed to address specific impacts or individual constructs, while others propose broader solutions that would transform the emergency management system. Truly transformative changes generally require a broad consensus and engagement by multiple actors and would therefore likely be more difficult than smaller-scale changes to achieve. However, adoption of such options also offers the greatest opportunity for significant streamlining. The authors also discuss trade-offs in costs and unintended consequences.

Key Findings

  • Stakeholders agree that integration among the set of constructs is a key issue.
  • The volume and complexity of constructs create burdens on stakeholders.
  • The frequency with which constructs are updated increases complexity and stakeholder burden.
  • Stakeholders are uncertain about when and how to apply constructs.
  • The overlap in construct purposes prevents measuring against a single standard.
  • The overlapping, fragmented frameworks lack a unified approach to risk management.
  • Risk assessments require duplicate effort.
  • Lessons learned from exercises are not fully operationalized.
  • Grants overlap in mission areas and beneficiaries.
  • Stakeholders perceive overlap between community lifelines, core capabilities, emergency support functions, and lines of effort.

Recommendations

  • Formally define and organize a system of constructs.
  • Establish rules to reduce the number and complexity of constructs.
  • Implement a clear and transparent update process for Community Lifelines, core capabilities, emergency support functions, and lines of effort.
  • Create a customer-experience office or function.
  • Improve communication with construct users.
  • Create a new lessons-learned information system.
  • Provide lessons-learned assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial entities.
  • Develop processes and planning actions to help stakeholders with the transition to Grants Outcomes.
  • Enhance education, training, and communication for Community Lifelines, core capabilities, emergency support functions, and lines of effort.
  • Consolidate the five frameworks into two: risk mitigation and consequence management.
  • Adopt a common risk lexicon for the frameworks.
  • Develop an integrated risk assessment.
  • Consolidate preparedness and mitigation grants.
  • Expand the use of core capabilities to include mitigation grants.
  • Ensure that Community Lifelines and core capabilities remain clearly aligned and consistently applied to their intended purposes.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and conducted within the Disaster Research and Analysis Program of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.