Policy Recommendations for Improving Inter-Agency Collaboration

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23/09/19 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Policy Recommendations for Improving Inter-Agency Collaboration

Presidential Policy Directive – Improving Inter-Agency Collaboration

SUBJECT: Improving Inter-Agency Collaboration

 Based upon recent responses to multiple national and homeland security disasters, this administration has determined the need to improve Inter-Agency collaboration in order to better respond to these disasters in an efficient and coordinated manner. This Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) will establish directives and policies on issues of governance, resourcing, and capacity building, to enhance and enable efficient collaboration and communications, thus enabling resilient responses to disasters amongst those federal agencies and departments likely to be involved in preparing for and responding to national and homeland security incidents.

 Recent collaboration failures in response to significant events include California Wildfires: Camp, Sonoma County, and Carr, Hurricanes: Maria, Harvey, Sandy, Katrina, and Andrew. These significant events “demand unity of effort within the Federal Government and especially close coordination between the public and private sectors” (White House, 2016).

 It is the intent of this administration to lay out a framework for Inter-Agency collaboration using the Collaboration Capability Maturity Model (C2M2) to provide the necessary tools, funding, resources and governance to support an integrated United States disaster response framework to provide effective collaboration. It is the goal of this administration to maintain a level 4 collaboration maturity model. “Organizations will create shared governance and administrative roles, responsibilities and rules between boundaries… Common aims will be agreed upon and resources will be contributed to the collective effort during responses. (NDU, 2018)

Figure A Collaboration Capability Maturity Model (C2M2) Reprinted from MAC19-01 Session 3: Principles of Inter-Agency Collaboration

  1. Scope

This Presidential Policy Directive sets forth principles governing the Federal Government’s response to any disaster and encompasses Federal (State Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), All Military branches), States (National Guard and emergency response organizations), local (Police, Medical, Fire) as well as Disaster Relief Agencies and Nongovernment Organizations involved in Disaster Relief, humanitarian response or that provide disaster response functions. There are also provisions for limited private sector support for volunteer groups such as ham radio operators, who may provide Amateur Radio Disaster Services and volunteer firefighters or other local disaster recovery organizations. This PPD also establishes lead Federal agencies and an architecture for coordinating the broader Federal Government response. This PPD requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security to maintain updated contact information for public use to assist entities affected by disasters in reporting these events and maintain a emergency management system in order to respond to declared disasters.

Figure B – Emergency Management Agencies Graphic Reprinted from https://www.ob.org/disaster-relief/emergency/

  1. Definitions

Disaster: An event that requires resources beyond the capability of a community and requires a multiple agency response or “events associated with the impact of a natural hazard, which leads to increased mortality, illness and/or injury, and destroys or disrupts livelihoods, affecting the people or an area such that they perceive it as being exceptional and requiring external assistance” (Cannon, 1994).

Emergency Response: “Coordinated emergency response requires survivable and compatible communications and information collection, processing and reporting capabilities, and comprehensive plans that are exercised and tested with all levels of government.” (FEMA, 1992)

Capability: “capabilities provide the means to accomplish one or more tasks under specific conditions and to specific performance standards. A capability may be delivered with any combination of properly planned, organized, equipped, trained, and exercised personnel that achieves the intended outcome.” (DHS, 2005)

  1. Principles Guiding Improved Inter-Agency Collaboration (Governance)

“The mission of FEMA is to reduce the loss of life and property and protect our institutions from all hazards by leading and supporting the nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery” (Witt, 1996). It is with this in mind that FEMA is designated the lead Federal Agency for executing this Presidential Policy Directive. FEMA will develop the following mission-associated goals (Witt, 1996):

Figure C Humanitarian Agencies Urged to Work Together to Strengthen Disaster Response in Somalia Reprinted from https://unsom.unmissions.org/humanitarian-agencies-urged-work-together-strengthen-disaster-response-somalia

  • create an emergency management partnership with other federal agencies, state and local governments, volunteer organizations, and the private sector;
  • establish, in concert with FEMA’s partners, a national emergency management system that is comprehensive, risk-based, and all-hazards in approach;
  • make hazard mitigation the foundation of the national emergency management system;
  • provide a rapid and effective response to, and recovery from, disaster; and
  • strengthen state and local emergency management;

FEMA will provide Governance and shared Leadership (unity of command) during declared disasters and will be responsible for instituting frameworks for collaboration. It is imperative that lessons learned from previous events are incorporated to future responses. No aid will be refused from any organization that offers aid. In addition, FEMA will create a National Disaster Response Council (NDRC) that will be comprised of all vetted national disaster response organizations to include Federal, State, Local, and Disaster Relief Agencies and Nongovernment Organizations. The council shall meet quarterly to develop capacity building, resourcing, and execute disaster recovery tabletops to further develop the nations disaster response capability.

Figure D New Resilience Organization at FEMA Aims to Build ‘Culture of Preparedness. Reprinted From https://www.hstoday.us/federal-pages/dhs/fema-dhs-federal-pages/new-resilience-organization-at-fema-aims-to-build-culture-of-preparedness/

During a declared emergency the Council shall share responsibility for response. The Federal Agencies (FEMA, State Department, DoD, and Military) shall be the primary decision makers with inputs from State (National Guard and emergency response organizations), local (Police, Medical, Fire) as well as Disaster Relief Agencies and Nongovernment Organizations. In addition, the Federal Response Plan (FRP) should be updated to incorporate the NDRC as the governing body for National Disaster Response.

  1. Architecture of Federal Government Response Coordination (Resourcing)

The current paradigm for disaster response is no longer tenable and hinders inter-agency collaboration. Current regulations require that once a local disaster is declared the States Governor requests federal assistance When a “President declares an Emergency or Major Disaster Declaration, all of the provisions or applicable sections of Public Law 93-288 (as amended by Public Law 100-707), the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988, apply” (FEMA, 2015) 

This arrangement has led to catastrophic failures of inter-agency collaboration. While the government has attempted to institute a more formalized inter-agency collaboration process through Presidential Decision Directive 56 (PDD-56) Managing Complex Contingency Operations May 1997, “Agencies chafed under a formal process that required them to define an end­state, allocate resources, articulate a plan, and then jointly monitor execution. After a few years, PDD-56 was scrapped” (Carafano, 2006).

Figure E – Complex Contingency Operations Handbook Reprinted From http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/ccoh/ccoh_hdbk.pdf

“According to FEMA, roughly 25.8 million people were affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria — eight percent of the entire U.S. population” (Homeland Security Today, 2018).

Recent examples include Hurricane Maria “FEMA experienced personnel shortages, was caught with a critical lack of aid supplies, had trouble coordinating logistics and found itself struggling to do the work of the territorial government while responding to Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico” (Hernández, 2017)

FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long wrote in a letter included in the report that emergency managers at all levels of government need to improve their emergency plans to account for the shortfalls that led to coordination and logistical breakdowns. Sounding a warning he has repeated since the disasters, Long said communities must be better prepared for emergencies, and he acknowledged that his agency must streamline procedures to provide better services. “These disasters demonstrate that our current organizing structures are insufficient to promote this collaboration,” Long wrote. (Hernández, 2017)

It is with these events in mind that this PPD directs the NDRC to establish regional emergency response centers nationwide, in those areas that are most likely to experience a natural disaster. In addition, this PPD directs that quarterly Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise be instituted to provide capacity planning and resourcing for potential disasters.

Figure F – In this Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, photo, operators at the Houston Emergency Center answer calls for help to 911 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

The importance of resilience for future disaster preparedness efforts relies heavily on pre-disaster mitigation. (Homeland Security Today, 2018)

  1. Operational Coordination (Capacity Building)

“Outside the Department of Defense, federal departments have very limited capabilities to conduct “operational” activities. Most federal agencies, for example, do not have effective means to mobilize and deploy personnel” (Carafano, 2006). Organizations must be able to account for the possibility of multiple major disasters in a short amount of time.

After Action Reviews: After the conclusion of each Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise, an after-action review involving those organizations who participated in the exercise will perform a comprehensive assessment of interagency performance. “The review will include a review of interagency planning and coordination, legal and budgetary difficulties encountered, problems in agency execution, as well as proposed solutions, in order to capture lessons learned and to ensure their dissemination to relevant agencies” (White House, 1997). This data will provide the data points to develop resource and capacity requirements. Organizations will identify requirements to respond to the identified disaster, and coordinate with other agencies to develop a comprehensive resource list, in addition to identifying Roles, Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Authorities (R2A2). These exercises will provide the framework for a comprehensive disaster response capability nationwide. Identified shortfalls will be presented to the NDRC for consideration and remediation. The NDRC will maintain a capability / resource matrix in order to identify potential resources (Funding, Manpower, Equipment, Capabilities) that can be leveraged to remediate identified shortfalls or provide a gap analysis of the shortfall with an associated risk matrix for consideration.

Figure G – The Ten Step Model to Designing an Effective Tabletop Exercise Reprinted from https://www.everbridge.com/solutions/alert-residents-and-visitors/tabletop-exercises/

  1. Inter-Agency Collaboration Tools

Improving Inter-Agency collaboration is critical to the success of the NDRC. FEMA is tasked with creating a National Emergency / Disaster response portal (Knowledge Management: Collaboration and Communities of Practice) that will provide collaborative tools to all agencies and organizations responsible for responding to disasters both local and national. The portal will provide the identified capability / resource matrix as well as tools to help coordinate response logistics and provide lessons learned to the Disaster Response community.  In addition, it will provide a community of like-minded professionals with access to the skillset profiles of members allowing the ability to browse and search for members based on various criteria, and the capability to build relationships nationwide, capitalizing on the Second Principle of collaboration (Identity) as identified by Mongoose Technology Inc. (Mongoose Technology, 2001). This portal will enable nationwide communications with all members and enable meaningful conversations pertaining to disaster response across the nation capitalizing on the Fifth and Sixth Principles of collaboration (Communications & Groups). Capabilities will include:

  • E-mail and newsletters;
  • Discussion groups/message boards;
  • Chat (open or with a guest speaker);
  • Instant messaging;
  • Data/image file sharing (Tenth Principle: Exchange); and
  • A Live Response capability dashboard for use during a declared emergency, in order to provide real-time logistics, coordination, and status.

The portal will be available to all members before, during, and after a disaster, irrespective of a declared emergency.

FEMA is also tasked with developing a nationwide Standardized Independent Emergency Management Radio communications system to mitigate issues experience with Hurricane Katrina. Lack of coordinated communications exacerbated already dysfunctional emergency response efforts. As indicated in the Department of Homeland Security Report, A Performance Review of FEMA’s Disaster Management Activities in Response to Hurricane Katrina “communications infrastructure – phone lines, cell phone towers, and radio and satellite antennae – were destroyed in many areas. This significantly impacted the ability of emergency responders to get situational and operational information to state or federal personnel outside the affected areas” (DHS, 2006). Developing a standardized Emergency Response Radio capability will enable responders to communicate and coordinate effectively to provide needed communications. With the help of citizen ham radio groups, the organization can develop the needed “communications suites that are mobile, interoperable, and robust even in environments where the physical and social infrastructure is compromised” (FEMA, 2006).

Figure H – Ham radio: An ‘old’ technology is a lifesaver in the emergency field Reprinted from http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2014/04/ham-radio-old-technology-lifesaver-emergency-field/

  1. Funding

The chair of the National Disaster Response Council (NDRC) will “designate an agency to lead a legal and fiscal advisory sub-group, whose role is to consult with the NRDC to ensure that tasks assigned by the NRDC can be performed by the assigned agencies consistent with legal and fiscal authorities.” (White House, 1997)

Congress will appropriate money to the NDRC, who will negotiate with other federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector contractors to determine funding requirements and priorities.

  1. Implementation and Assessment

The primary focus of the PPD is to create a regional framework for interagency planning and action that establishes a unity of effort to ensuring that a single entity has the authority and resources to accomplish the mission (Carafano, 2006). Effectiveness of the PPD will be provided by the assessment of quarterly exercises and after-action reviews for organizations to “review the adequacy of their agency’s structure, legal authorities, budget levels, personnel system, training, and crisis management procedures to ensure that we are learning from our experiences and institutionalizing the lessons learned.” (White House 1997).

Ultimately, as detailed in the 2017 Hurricane Season FEMA After-Action Report “The work of emergency management does not belong just to FEMA,” the agency stated near the end of the report. “It is the responsibility of the whole community, federal, [state, local, tribal and territorial governments], private sector partners, and private citizens to build collective capacity and prepare for the disasters we will inevitably face” (FEMA, 2017).

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