In recent years, FEMA has signaled a tremendous commitment to build “a culture of preparedness” through its insurance, mitigation, preparedness, continuity, and grant programs. To this end, several new and ongoing efforts have been established or strengthened, and a new Strategic Plan set forth in 2018 highlights several key areas to advance the agency’s mission and make the nation more resilient (see below). The 2017 Hurricane After Action Report completed for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria further reinforced the need for FEMA to take a more strategic approach to addressing supply chain resilience—including the need for better understanding of, and relationships with, the private sector and critical infrastructure sectors (FEMA, 2018a). This National Academies report supports these goals and provides recommendations to enhance the effective, efficient integration of capabilities and planning among diverse supply chain stakeholders and critical government entities.
Below is an overview of some of the other advances being made by FEMA that hold potential to contribute to the goals of supply chain resilience.
- FEMA 2018–2022 Strategic Plan. In 2018, FEMA released a new five-year strategic plan that outlines three strategic goals: (i) build a culture of preparedness, (ii) ready the nation for catastrophic disasters, and (iii) reduce the complexity of FEMA. Under the plan’s second goal, section 2.3 speaks directly to the issue of supply chain resilience to “posture FEMA and the whole community to provide lifesaving and life-sustaining commodities, equipment, and personnel from all available sources” (FEMA, 2018b). FEMA makes clear that the agency has a growing interest
in helping to ensure that communities have robust, adaptable supply chains that can withstand the stresses of extreme weather events, noting:
The most effective way to deliver the needed supplies to a disaster-impacted area is by re-establishing pre-disaster supply chains. Building resilience within these systems and providing for their rapid restoration is key to responding to any catastrophic incident. FEMA will work with the private sector and federal partners to build a shared understanding of supply chain vulnerabilities and the ways FEMA can work with its partners to rapidly restore these critical flows.
This transition signals that FEMA is thinking more strategically and systematically in addressing supply chain needs following disasters and in establishing new relationships and mechanisms for working with diverse partners in advance of a catastrophic event.
- Supply Chain Resilience Guide. FEMA has published a Supply Chain Resilience Guide to help leaders and practitioners in emergency management around the country better understand supply chains in their own jurisdictions. Specifically, “this document presents an approach to assist emergency managers with analyzing local supply chains and enhancing supply chain resilience” (FEMA, 2019b). As part of this guide, FEMA provides foundational information to help readers understand how supply chains are structured and the roles that emergency managers can take in promoting supply chain resilience. It suggests a process by which emergency managers can approach mapping and assessing supply chains in their region and engage with relevant stakeholder groups, and it discusses how this better understanding can inform logistics planning.
National Response Framework Update and New Emergency Support Function #14 (ESF14). FEMA recently updated the 2008 National Response Framework to include what was learned from the hurricanes and wildfires in 2017. As part of this update, FEMA has established a new emergency support function, ESF14, which “supports the coordination of cross-sector operations, including stabilization of key supply chains and community lifelines, among infrastructure owners and operators, businesses, and their government partners” (FEMA, 2019a) The primary focus of ESF14 is two-fold:
- assessment, analysis, and situational awareness, such as supporting cross-sector planning, using modeling and simulation to better understand and identify critical infrastructure or supply nodes, ensuring that organizations are provided good information for decision making, and sharing information on the status and needs of critical infrastructure and the private sector supply chains
- operational coordination, including evaluating private sector offers of materials or technical assistance, aligning government efforts with business and private sector activities, and coordinating assistance of short- and long-term restoration activities
- Disaster Recovery Reform Act. The 2018 Disaster Recovery Reform Act mandated numerous relevant reforms and changes to FEMA processes. Of particular relevance is the establishment of the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation fund.1 This program requires FEMA to set aside up to 6 percent of the money it spends on disaster relief for local projects aimed at improving community resilience and to reduce the likelihood of damage during future disasters. The new program, known as Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, is currently under development and undergoing a public comment and information-gathering process at the time of this writing.
- Emergency Management Performance Grants. In 2019, recipients of funding from Emergency Management Performance Grants will be required to develop and maintain a distribution management plan as an addition to their emergency operations plan, which “includes end-to-end commodity and resource management; warehouse and transportation operations to effectively and efficiently distribute supplies to distribution points and staging areas; provision of equipment and services to support incident requirements; and a mechanism for supplies and commodities to be provided to survivors.”2 This plan will assist FEMA regional offices in assessing the types of resources and information they need to have in place to respond to different types of events. FEMA recently provided guidance on the key areas that must be addressed as part of developing this plan. Ideally, this program should align with the committee’s recommendation for prioritizing restoration of an area’s regular supply chains over expansion of replacement and relief supply chains.
- National Business Emergency Operations Center. The National Business Emergency Operations Center, discussed in Chapter 4, is another important evolving effort by FEMA to actively engage private sector stakeholders in preparedness, policy, training exercises, and response activities and to enhance communication, collaboration, and exchange of information for response and recovery.
- Supply Chain Analysis Network. FEMA’s Logistics Management Directorate under the Office of Response and Recovery has recently expanded its supply chain analysis capabilities through the Supply Chain Analysis Network. This network is a contracted team that can provide insight on the private sector supply chain landscape to inform FEMA decision-making processes in disaster response operations.3 The Supply Chain Analysis Network will be able to provide (i) rapid-response “ecosystem assessments” of a designated area’s inbound and outbound flow, principal nodes, links and/or channels, and critical dependencies; and (ii) regularly updated
3 The team draws expertise from Dewberry, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Center for Naval Analysis, and the American Logistics Aid Network.
- “lifelines assessments” that provide more detail on individual flows, network behavior, and observed changes. The ecosystem assessment synthesizes a strategic view, while the lifelines assessment analyzes operational progress. This capability integrates with FEMA’s Business, Industry, and Infrastructure Integration Office (formerly the FEMA Private Sector Division).
FEMA is making a number of important strides in advancing the goals of supply chain resilience, as evidenced by the activities outlined above. Yet the committee also recognizes that these efforts to advance new programs and to work with new partners are both shaped and constrained by the larger policy context in which FEMA operates. For instance, the agency’s efforts must align with the Stafford Act and other legislative statues that mandate FEMA’s authorities and responsibility for responding to disasters. The opportunities to collect and share some information useful for supply chain analyses (e.g., regarding fuel sales in a given region) are constrained by anti-trust laws designed to increase competition and reduce collusion. These broader policy issues fall outside of the scope of our study and thus are not discussed in greater depth here. It is important to acknowledge, however, that these broader policy frameworks do influence how FEMA can pursue some of the recommendations made herein, and lawmakers may wish to consider whether such constraints need to be addressed.
Emergency management always entails a complex interplay among numerous federal, state, and local officials and agencies, working in concert with representatives of key private sector entities, nongovernmental organizations, and community organizations. The specific roles and responsibilities undertaken by each of these stakeholders will vary by location, scope, complexity, and type of hazard being addressed. Therefore, we avoid being too prescriptive in terms of dictating who would enact all of the different actions recommended.
Many state and local emergency management offices do in fact have significant capabilities to lead some of these recommended actions for strengthening supply chain resilience. Yet during active response operations, they can face constraints in terms of access to certain critical information and in terms of information sharing among states or among counties and communities within a state. Some smaller state and local offices can also face practical constraints in terms of staffing resources and physical operating space for an Emergency Operations Center (which, for instance, can limit capacity for face-to-face cooperation with private sector representatives).
FEMA has unique capabilities in terms of operational resources, reservoirs of experience, and cross-jurisdictional scope, and thus the agency is well placed to provide operational
assistance to governors and mayors across the country—in particular for addressing supply chain issues that cross municipal or state borders, or that have national or global implications. For instance, this may include technical assistance for collecting data and mapping critical assets, linkages, and interdependencies within a region; advancing preparedness and mitigation strategies to reduce vulnerabilities identified in these analyses; and strengthening coordination with the private sector and nongovernmental organization stakeholders that play important roles in meeting the basic needs of populations affected by a disaster.
While FEMA itself cannot be responsible for carrying out all of these activities, it can provide leadership in convening, coordinating, and empowering others—going beyond just administering grant programs to also provide hands-on guidance for increasing understanding and building capacity.
Many valuable lessons were learned from the experiences of the historic 2017 hurricane season. These insights, coupled with political will and strategic management, provide a unique opportunity to transform the way that FEMA and its many partners think about and interact with the critical supply chains upon which we all depend.
The 2017 hurricane season posed tremendous challenges to FEMA and other emergency management partners in responding to the widely dispersed and unprecedented impacts of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (simultaneously with other major disasters such as western wildfires). FEMA has a vital role in disaster response—to save lives, to reassure a traumatized public, and to maintain critical operations. But focusing these efforts as much as possible on strategic interventions that help quickly restore normal economic activity has the dual advantage of getting people’s lives back to normal more quickly, while freeing up FEMA’s valuable resources and capacity for responding to the next event. By working together with businesses, state and local governments, the health care industry, and others—in a “whole of community” effort—FEMA can help advance more widespread preparedness that reduces supply chain vulnerabilities. The more advances that are made on these fronts, the less time, energy, and resources will be needed for response and recovery.
Some important steps toward meeting these goals are already underway; further advances will require ongoing outreach to both private and public sector stakeholders to make the case that preparedness and rapid recovery are in everyone’s best interest. It is not possible to prevent hurricanes or other natural hazards, but with the right kinds of preparations, information systems, and strategic partnerships, prolonged disasters can be reduced and become more of a rarity.
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