Crenshaw Opening Statement at Joint Hearing on FEMA Contracting
WASHINGTON – Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Accountability Ranking Member Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), today delivered the following opening statement at a joint subcommittee hearing entitled “FEMA Contracting: Reviewing Lessons Learned from Past Disasters to Improve Preparedness.”
I’ve been here long enough to see the range of issues this committee deals with. From countering threats from terrorist activity, to cybersecurity, to natural disasters. All can be harmful, effect national security, and most importantly, impact the American people.
I am pleased we are holding this hearing today to explore the ways FEMA can improve its contracting. FEMA has one of the most important functions of the Federal government in helping our citizens prepare for and recover from disasters.
My home state of Texas witnessed the devastation nature can cause when Hurricane Harvey hit in late August of 2017.
It is something my constituents and I saw and dealt with first hand.
That storm brought torrential downpours that caused catastrophic flooding in Houston and many of the areas I represent. Hurricane Harvey cost 107 people their lives, is estimated to have caused 125 billion dollars in damage.
Texans are resilient. During the storm we evacuated our neighbors, with the help of our friends from the Cajun Navy, volunteers from across the country, the Texas National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard. As soon as the waters receded we got to work with recovery.
It’s been over 600 days and we are still recovering and rebuilding after the devastation caused by this storm. While we are grateful for the assistance from FEMA, we must always ask ourselves, how can we do better. It is our role to review the activities of Federal agencies and determine what we can do better to serve our constituents and the American taxpayer. That is part of our oversight role in congress and on this committee.
While 2017 was an unusual year because of the unprecedented number of disasters, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires, FEMA must be prepared for all disasters regardless of their frequency. FEMA assists with disaster recovery utilizing three different methods.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA began using advance contracts for goods and services it typically needs in a disaster. The agency also provides help after a disaster through post-disaster contracts and public assistance grants.
In the 2017 disaster season, many of the post disaster contracts were for power distribution equipment and food and water. FEMA uses public assistance grants to supplement state and local efforts for things like debris removal and emergency protective measures as well as projects to repair infrastructure and facilities.
Responsible administration of these contracts is vital in helping the victims of a disaster recover and in helping the states and localities recover and rebuild. We need to get these contracts right to ensure that we can adequately address basic needs immediately following a disaster.
As we rebuild our communities, we need to ensure that federal funds are not wasted. We should not be picking winners and losers with these contracts; they need to be entered with the goal of ensuring that everyone wins – the victims, the communities, the contractors and the taxpayers.
FEMA needs to continuously improve its management and oversight of its contracts to ensure that this is the case. While I applaud FEMA for its excellent work in helping rebuild lives and communities after a disaster, I recognize that there may be ways to improve its operations. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today on the best ways to add accountability and oversight in the disaster recovery process.
Contact: Nicole Hager