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Written testimony of FEMA Protection and National Preparedness Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management hearing titled “FEMA: Assessing Progress, Performance, and Preparedness”

Release Date: April 12, 2016

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Chairman Paul, Ranking Member Baldwin, and members of the Subcommittee: good afternoon. I am Timothy Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On behalf of Secretary Johnson and Administrator Fugate, it is my pleasure to appear before you today to discuss FEMA’s efforts to assist states in preparing for natural disasters and terrorism.

Building a Framework for National Preparedness

The recent tragic events in San Bernardino, Paris, and Brussels are a reminder of how important it is for us, as a Nation, to be ready to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. This includes both natural threats such as flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, as well as man-made threats like organized terrorist attacks, active shooters, and technological hazards.

During any type of incident, local first responders are first on scene and play a critical role in keeping our citizens and communities safe. FEMA remains committed to ensuring our first responders have the resources they need to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise so they may prevent, prepare for, mitigate, and respond to a full range of threats and hazards.

The National Preparedness Goal (NPG), first released in 2011 and updated in 2015, describes a capabilities-based vision for preparedness nationwide. The Goal identifies 32 core capabilities necessary to achieve that vision across five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. The National Preparedness System (NPS) is the instrument the Nation uses to build, sustain, and deliver the 32 core capabilities identified in the Goal. Implementation of the NPS uses an approach to homeland security that supports building, sustaining, and delivering the core capabilities through six components: identifying and assessing the risks we face; estimating capability requirements to meet those risks; building and sustaining capabilities; planning to deliver capabilities; validating those capabilities through exercises and real-world incidents; and then reviewing and updating our capabilities and plans.

To address the components outlined in the NPS, FEMA implements numerous programs to increase the capabilities of state, local, tribal, and territorial responders prior to a real-world incident. These include the establishment of planning doctrine, grants, training, technical assistance, and exercise programs.

One of the key components of the NPS is the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA). Jurisdictions that receive preparedness grant funding from FEMA must use the THIRA to annually identify and assess risk. As part of the THIRA process, jurisdictions establish capability targets based upon the risks they face.

States and territories then assess their current capability levels against those targets in their State Preparedness Reports (SPR). The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 requires an SPR each year from any state or territory receiving Federal preparedness assistance administered by DHS. Jurisdictions use the results of the THIRA and SPR to determine state and territorial preparedness capability levels and gaps.

States, tribes, territories, and the Federal Government use this information to help make programmatic decisions to build and sustain, plan for, and validate capabilities.

Progress in National Preparedness

FEMA develops and submits to the President an annual National Preparedness Report (NPR), using THIRA and SPR results, that addresses progress in building, sustaining, and delivering the 32 core capabilities described in the National Preparedness Goal. The report also incorporates input from other Federal departments and agencies to assess gains at all levels across the whole community, and identifies areas for future improvement.

The NPR provides the Nation with practical insights on the state of preparedness and addresses reporting requirements contained within the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act and other legislation. Strengths and areas for improvement identified in the NPR are used to inform planning efforts, focus priorities for Federal grants, and enable informed collaboration among stakeholders working together to improve the Nation’s preparedness.

The Nation continues to be strong in capabilities under the Response mission area and selected capabilities in Prevention and Protection. In 2015, the Nation made progress in Environmental Response/Health and Safety, Intelligence and Information Sharing, and Operational Coordination. These core capabilities are at acceptable levels of performance and will need to be sustained going forward. But work remains. The 2015 Report identified Cybersecurity, Housing, Infrastructure Systems, Long-term Vulnerability Reduction, Economic Recovery, and Access Control, and Identity Verification as areas for improvement. Cybersecurity, Housing, and Infrastructure Systems have been areas for improvement for four consecutive years. For the third time in four years, Economic Recovery also re-emerged as an area for improvement.

FEMA has the opportunity to affect preparedness in a number of ways, chief among them is grant funding coupled with our offerings in training and exercises.

Informing Exercise Planning Efforts: FEMA’s National Exercise Division (NED) recently analyzed areas for improvement through relevant case studies and real-world incidents identified in the 2014 and 2015 NPRs. NED then used this analysis to support the development of the 2017-2018 National Exercise Program Cycle, focusing our efforts on key areas that would best support the Nation’s preparedness.

Focus Priorities for Federal Grants: As part of the application process for the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), applicants develop justifications that demonstrate how proposed investments will, among other considerations, align with the national priorities and areas for improvement outlined in the latest NPR, and with their state’s SPR findings.

In 2015, FEMA completed a series of grant effectiveness case studies. These studies examined grant-funded projects that were intended to address three core capabilities that previous NPRs identified as areas for improvement: Cybersecurity, Housing, and Infrastructure Systems. FEMA shared the results of the case studies to help future grantees learn about successful approaches for building capacity in these key areas.

Enabling Collaboration among Stakeholders: The NPRs from 2012-2015 identified cybersecurity as a national area for improvement. FEMA collated data on specific cybersecurity capability gaps that each state and territory identified in their SPR, and then shared that information with the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C). CS&C is now able to use this data to develop federal training support packages for each state and territory tailored to their specific gaps. FEMA is also evaluating preparedness-related technical assistance needs related to core capabilities identified in the NPR as national areas for improvement.

Homeland Security Preparedness Grant Programs

FEMA works with state and local governments to assess capability gaps and then prioritize grant investments to address these needs. Once the first step of a risk assessment is completed, the states identify gaps which drive grant investments across their jurisdictions. For example, Kentucky and Wisconsin use their risk assessment to evaluate effectiveness in local grant proposals to make funding decisions. Chicago and St. Louis take a similar urban area approach and use the data to evaluate all equipment purchases against capability gaps.

In FY 15 FEMA provided $1.6 billion in preparedness grant funds to address the risks and capability gaps the states identified. In their state grant information called investment justifications, applicants for preparedness grants must describe how projects funded by grant dollars will address these gaps. We analyze this information, as well as the THIRA and SPR, to assess that grant dollars are being used effectively to enhance preparedness. In 2015, FEMA found that over 98 percent of projects funded by FY 15 homeland security grant program dollars align to the gaps identified through the THIRA/SPR process. Through this alignment, FEMA uses the THIRA and SPR as a basis for measuring grantees’ progress in closing deficiencies over time.

Additionally, to further ensure we maximize federal grant dollars, the Administration is proposing to re-align $100 million from the Homeland Security Grant Program to a new Regional Competitive Grant Program that will target critical capability gaps at the regional level. Although, plans for implementation of the Regional Competitive Grant Program are still in development, the general approach will involve identification of capability gaps through an analysis of state and regional THIRAs, the annual National Preparedness Report, the Strategic National Risk Assessment, and other assessments of national risk and capabilities. The program will include requirements for applicants to identify specific, outcome-based performance metrics to measure the effectiveness of proposed investments.

I would like to share with you several examples that illustrate how Federal preparedness grants have improved outcomes during response and recovery efforts.

  • Louisiana
    • Interoperable Communications Network: After Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that Louisiana’s communications infrastructure could not support a large-scale response operation, the State used approximately $90 million in SHSP and UASI funds to develop the Louisiana Wireless Information Network (LWIN). LWIN—the Nation’s largest statewide interoperable public safety network—provides over 95 percent of street-level radio coverage to more than 700,000 users across 500 agencies. LWIN supported the 2012 response to Hurricane Isaac, managing over twice the call volume of the 2008 Hurricane Gustav response with one-third fewer busy signals. In addition, LWIN supported the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill response, enabling the U.S. Coast Guard to connect with state and local officials to coordinate response activities from Florida to Texas.
  • Washington
    • Regional Aviation Unit: Since 2007, Washington has allocated nearly $8 million in SHSP, UASI, and Port Security Grant Program funding to create and maintain the Northwest Regional Aviation Unit. The unit provides aerial rescue services, criminal manhunt capabilities in the Seattle area, wildfire suppression, and maritime vessel rescue support in the Puget Sound. Following a mudslide in Snohomish County in March 2014, the aviation unit rescued 11 survivors in the first two hours of the response. In areas of thick, unstable mud that was up to 30 feet deep, the aviation unit was the state’s only asset capable of locating and rescuing survivors.
  • Oklahoma
    • Regional Response System: Since 2011, Oklahoma has invested $35 million in federal preparedness grants to develop the Regional Response System (RRS)—a collection of specialized teams and equipment for all-hazards response support throughout the state. The RRS is capable of responding to incidents in any area of the state within two hours. In May 2013, the state dispatched RRS assets to aid response and recovery operations following a tornado that struck communities in Newcastle, Oklahoma City, and Moore. Technical Rescue Teams searched and cleared two schools that the tornado had hit while class was in session.
  • Illinois
    • Disaster Risk Analysis Model: Since 2011, Cook County and the City of Chicago have invested federal preparedness grants in technologies that assist in identifying risks, deploying resources, and responding to regional disasters. During severe flooding in April 2013, Cook County conducted a flood risk analysis using grant-funded geographic information system technologies that enabled the county to quickly deploy water pumps and generators to the highest priority locations. Additionally, Cook County and the City of Chicago collaborated to build a weather model that facilitated the rapid evacuation of 170,000 people from Grant Park as a dangerous, pop-up thunderstorm approached in 2013.
  • Colorado
    • Regional Explosives Unit: Since 2010, Colorado has invested over $500,000 in SHSP funding to create and equip the South Central Regional Explosives Unit, a team of bomb technicians that responds to hundreds of explosives-related calls throughout the region each year. Prior to this investment, first responders in the area lacked explosives expertise and requesting assistance outside the jurisdiction was complicated and time-consuming. In 2013, the unit supported a barricaded active shooter response in downtown Colorado Springs. Grant-funded tactical suits and masks helped responders safely deliver tear gas and search the suspect’s house.
  • Minnesota
    • Urban Search and Rescue (USAR): Minnesota invested $13.1 million in SHSP, Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grant, and UASI funds toward its state emergency response teams, including Minnesota Task Force 1 (MN-TF 1). Located in the Twin Cities, MN-TF 1 is a USAR team comprised of specialists from police, fire, and paramedic units. Minnesota activated MN-TF 1 in response to the I-35 bridge collapse in 2007. After-action reports from the event indicate that the incident response benefited from UASI grant investments in equipment and training support for response teams such as MN-TF 1.
  • New York
    • Public Health Laboratory: When Ebola virus disease arrived in the United States in 2014, Federal preparedness grants helped New York City effectively address its 16 suspected cases, including one positive case. $3.2 million in UASI grant funds supported enhancements to New York City’s Public Health Laboratory, which was responsible for testing specimens for Ebola virus disease. UASI funds supported personnel costs, as well as the lab information management system, which includes the ability to electronically transmit test results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the State of New York. These laboratory capabilities enabled New York City to rapidly perform a total of 12 tests for Ebola virus disease, including out-of-state cases.
  • Texas
    • Active Shooter Training Video: Following the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the City of Houston Mayor’s Office used Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program and UASI funds to produce a six-minute video – Run. Hide. Fight.© – that identifies actions the public can take to survive an active shooter event. Since its release, the video has gained international attention for its realistic depiction of such an incident and clear steps that individuals should take to survive. To date, the video has recorded over 4.5 million of views on YouTube© alone, and the City shares the video with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private sector entities for training purposes.
  • Pennsylvania
    • Aviation Unit Helicopter: Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) Aviation purchased a helicopter based on lessons learned from real-world incidents over a 15 year span of operation. Purchased with UASI funds, the helicopter enables PPD Aviation responses beyond basic airborne observations and is one of the only law enforcement aviation resources in the region. The helicopter serves not only as a law enforcement resource, but also as a tool to assist fire and emergency medical operations. During the Amtrak 188 derailment in 2015, PPD Aviation used the helicopter to identify body heat signatures among the wreckage, speeding the rescue of survivors.

In addition to providing grant funding to help states fill needs, the Agency works to help fill gaps through our training, exercises, and technical assistance programs.

Training First Responders

FEMA’s National Training and Education System (NTES) is designed to foster an integrated and effective approach to building the knowledge and skills of homeland security professionals. This world-class system includes the development and delivery of training courses to first responders on a wide variety of emergency response topics. In person training is offered throughout the country, including at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, AL, where more than 45,000 responders are trained a year in disciplines such as emergency management, emergency medical services, fire service, hazardous materials, law enforcement, public safety communications, and public works. FEMA also manages the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and U.S. National Fire Academy, both housed at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) in Emmitsburg, MD.

In addition to general emergency management training courses, FEMA also has training specifically designed to address terrorism incidents. Most terrorism-related training is provided by CDP in partnership with the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and the Center for Homeland Defense at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA.

In coordination with the National Counter Terrorism Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FEMA developed and manages two training programs designed to assist communities in preparing for the kinds of complex terrorist attacks we have recently witnessed in the United States and Europe. The Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series is geared towards UASI cities, while the Integrated Emergency Management Course was developed for other metropolitan areas which may have fewer resources and less experience with counterterrorism operations. So far, more than 5,500 responders across 29 cities have participated in these two courses, with additional deliveries scheduled for eight new cities in 2016.

These programs are designed to be community-specific training initiatives to improve the ability of local jurisdictions to prepare for, protect against, and respond to complex coordinated attacks. Through briefings, case studies, facilitated discussions, and planning workshops, participants work through an attack scenario to identify gaps in their current plans as well as mitigation strategies.

FEMA also partnered with the National Transportation Safety Board to develop a Large Scale Aviation Accident Response (LsAAR) workshop to examine local jurisdictions’ ability to effectively coordinate and respond in the aftermath of an in-flight break-up of a commercial aircraft. The target audience is public safety and emergency response stakeholders at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels; private sector (including airlines) and non-governmental organizations; the medical community and federal agencies. Each of the workshops is tailored for the host jurisdiction with the goal to improve the coordinated response to large scale aviation accidents outside airport boundaries. Currently, more than 750 responders across five cities have participated in this workshop, with additional deliveries scheduled for five new cities in 2016.

FEMA’s training is not focused solely on urban first responders. We also fund and partner with the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium (RDPC), led by The Center for Rural Development. The RDPC provides training and resources to rural first responders. Courses are offered both in-person and online and are provided at no cost to participants. Training topics include: Crisis Management for School-based Incidents; Chemical, Biological Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Response for Rural First Responders; Mass Fatality Planning and Response; Risk and Vulnerability Assessments; Bioterrorism Awareness; and Response Planning for People with Access and Functional Needs. In the past four years, DHS and FEMA have funded training for 40,124 local, state, and federal response officials through the RDPC.

National Exercise Program

Exercises serve as a principal means for examining the preparedness and readiness of responders across the entire homeland security and management enterprise. The purpose of the National Exercise Program (NEP) is to test the Nation’s capabilities through the design, coordination, conduct and evaluation of exercises that test our ability to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. As a component of our National Preparedness System, the NEP provides a means to evaluate and validate our progress as a Nation toward meeting the 32 core capabilities which we use to measure progress in reaching our National Preparedness Goal of a prepared and resilient Nation. Program cycles consist of a two year progressive schedule of exercises that are selected based on their support to the NPG as well as the objectives of FEMA and state, local, tribal, and territorial partners. These exercises may include facilitated policy discussions, seminars and workshops, tabletop exercises, modeling and simulation, drills, functional exercises, and full-scale exercises. Exercises may be sponsored by organizations from any level of government, non-governmental, private sector, and whole community partners.

Each two-year NEP cycle includes a national level exercise, focusing on issues and challenges identified in past exercises, national preparedness data, analysis of recent real-world incidents, and interagency partners’ perspectives. This data-driven approach to designing the 2016 national level exercise suggested a need to examine and validate core capabilities in the prevention, protection, and response mission areas. The 2016 national level exercise, known as Capstone Exercise 2016, examines authorities and capabilities needed to ensure our nation’s ability to prevent and protect against an imminent threat from a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), and to plan for and respond to a WMD incident while operating under continuity conditions.

Analysis of other gaps prompted the development of an Operation Safe Delivery exercise series to examine and validate capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from transportation incidents involving crude oil and other flammable liquids. Three workshops took place across urban, rural, and tribal jurisdictions to validate and test the exercise toolkit for scalability before delivery to the states, planned for mid-2016.


It is the local first responders who are part of the community and first on the scene that are the most important partners in preparing for and responding to attacks like what happened in Brussels, Paris, and San Bernardino. FEMA is honored to implement the programs and execute the resources Congress provides to support these responders and other state, local, tribal and territorial officials as they all constitute an integral part of building our nationwide capabilities for national preparedness. FEMA will continue to work with our partners to help organize, train, equip, and exercise our first responders so they are prepared to respond to the next incident. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to discuss these important programs with you today and I am happy to respond to any questions the Subcommittee may have. Thank you.

Last Updated: 10/06/2022
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