The Impacts of FEMA’s Strategic Plan on Disaster Preparedness and Response

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

f t # e
0 Wednesday, May 17, 2023 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

Official Transcript

Witness list:
  • The Honorable Erik Hooks, Deputy Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security | Written Testimony

  • Mr. Chris Currie, Director, Homeland Security and Justice, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) | Written Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) from today’s hearing, entitled “The Impacts of FEMA’s Strategic Plan on Disaster Preparedness and Response”:

Today, we will focus on FEMA’s strategic plan for 2022 through 2026, which is the first strategic plan that prioritizes things like equity and climate change over actual disaster readiness and response.

FEMA’s core mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters. The Biden Administration is advancing a woke agenda focused on diversity and inclusion, to the detriment of their core missions.

FEMA issued a request for information (RFI) in April of 2021 for feedback on how the agency’s “programs, regulations, and policies could better advance the goals of equity for all, environmental justice, and bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

FEMA received 340 comments in response, and while they may have generally referenced “equity,” they were more focused on how FEMA could better implement their programs through technical assistance and a less burdensome application process.

It is obvious to anyone who is making an honest assessment that FEMA is so focused on messaging that they are overlooking the real problem – their overly complex and bureaucratic process. Americans are also concerned about the role FEMA is playing at the southern border at the direction of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas.

The Homeland Security Act prohibits “the diversion of FEMA assets, functions, or mission for the continuing use of any other DHS organization unless such assignments do not reduce the capability of FEMA to perform its missions.”

FEMA clearly has a significant capacity problem, and every diversion of resources undermines its ability to perform the core missions – GAO confirmed this capacity issue in a report released earlier this very month.

The report also mentions that in addition to responding to disasters and other emergencies, FEMA was also busy assisting with the Afghan refugee resettlement efforts and providing shelter and emergency supplies for unaccompanied children at the southern border.

The Committee has sent multiple letters inquiring about FEMA’s role at the border, but we have yet to receive substantive answers to questions regarding how FEMA’s deputization by the Secretary has impacted FEMA’s ability to respond to disasters across the country when their staffing level is already low at 65 percent.

Since the Post-Katrina Act in 2006, there was clear direction that FEMA would operate as a distinct entity and report directly to the President, yet it is continuously being pulled into other DHS functions regardless of capability or capacity.

FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) received $114 million in the Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance (SAHA) and an additional $800 million transferred from United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to pay for actions associated with the illegal foreign national crisis at the border and beyond. How does FEMA justify allocating $332.5 million of that amount to communities to support folks who have crossed the border illegally?

While FEMA regularly states that the number and intensity of disasters is steadily increasing, here it is clearly diverting resources to things outside of their mission. And I suspect that they’re going to be coming to Congress at some point in the near future saying that they need more money to pay for disasters. They’re spending the money that they have on things other than the disasters. Today, I look forward to hearing from FEMA on their prioritization, or what I would generally characterize as mis-prioritization, of equity over disaster readiness, and how this harms the American people.
f t # e