Vulnerabilities Remain and Limited Collaboration and Monitoring Hamper Federal Efforts : Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, United States Senate
Emergency communications breakdowns undermined response efforts during terrorist attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In response, federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have increased efforts to enhance emergency communications. This requested report identifies (1) vulnerabilities, if any, to emergency communications systems; (2) federal assistance available or planned to first responders for addressing vulnerabilities or enhancing emergency communications; and (3) challenges, if any, with federal emergency communications efforts. GAO developed six catastrophic disaster case studies, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed public and private sector officials at the national, state, and local levels. GAO recommends that DHS complete efforts to help implement the National Emergency Communications Plan; DHS and FCC establish a forum or other mechanism to collaborate on significant agency emergency communications efforts; and DHS leverage its expertise to help federal agencies develop emergency communications plans.