NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 7, 2006

The United States isn't prepared to handle disasters and lacks an effective way to track $88 billion doled out to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after last year's killer hurricanes, according to recently released government reports.

Three reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), examine the government's progress in addressing its response after Hurricane Katrina, and find that safeguards are not in place to ensure speedy responses to the nation's next catastrophe.

Among the findings:

  • The Homeland Security Department says it has made changes to improve its ability to respond to disasters, "but there is little information available on the extent to which those changes are operational."
  • The government has no place to collect data on how and where 23 agencies are spending their share of the $88 billion Congress has allocated for Gulf Coast recovery.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers is "following a piecemeal approach" to flood prevention; the GAO is concerned that the Corps is proceeding with over $7 billion of interim repairs and construction without a comprehensive strategy.
  • The GAO report also expressed concern about the delays and costs to repair damaged levees; the costs have risen from $841 million to more than $1 billion.

"We are clearly better off than we were five years ago and one year ago, but we are not where we need to be," said GAO Comptroller General David Walker.

Source: Mimi Hall and Anne Rochell Konigsmark, "Report: U.S. not ready for disaster," USA Today, September 7, 2006; based upon: "Catastrophic Disasters: Enhanced Leadership, Capabilities, and Accountability Controls Will Improve the Effectiveness of the Nation's Preparedness, Response, and Recovery System GAO-06-618," "Disaster Relief: Governmentwide Framework Needed to Collect and Consolidate Information to Report on Billions in Federal Funding for the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes GAO-06-834," and "Hurricane Katrina: Strategic Planning Needed to Guide Future Enhancements Beyond Interim Levee Repairs GAO-06-934,"  Government Accountability Office, September 6, 2006.

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