flood damage (FEMA)

FEMA seeks help integrating IT systems

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants the private sector to help it coordinate disaster response in states and local communities and help it modernize its siloed, legacy IT, said one of the agency's top managers.

The problems integrating the 200-odd IT systems that FEMA uses to help state and local emergency responders, governments and private citizens, "are not unknown to leadership," Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski said in an April 4 presentation on the agency's recently released strategic plan for 2018-2022. Those hundreds of systems "aren't communicating with each other," he added.While a key part of FEMA's disaster response help to state and local governments is delivered through its grants programs, the agency has 10 systems supporting those grant programs, Kaniewski said.

"We're in the middle of a multi-year effort" to solve those difficulties, he said. Part of that effort, he said is FEMA's Grant Management Modernization program.

FEMA kicked off the GMM program in 2016, to simplify and coordinate business management approaches across all of the agency's grants programs. When the program is completed, the agency expects to have a common grants lifecycle and platform for users. GMM's completion, said Kaniewski, won't be for "several" years, however.

To find help solving some of its thorny IT problems, Kaniewski said he had recently visited Silicon Valley to talk with industry. "They embraced us" when it came to talking about alternatives to using hundreds of legacy systems, he said.

Earlier this month, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security told FEMA Administrator Brock Long that it planned a comprehensive investigation into the agency's IT management practices because of concerns about progress and transparency. Kaniewski didn't address the IG's notice, but outlined his agency's broader mission.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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