According to a watchdog agency, the U.S. government is woefully under-prepared for handing a nuclear attack or natural disaster because of a basic lack of coordination and medical resources, The Washington Times reports.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, obtained by the Associated Press before being released to the public, has blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for not keeping track of disaster efforts and not availing itself of all the information necessary to make good decisions in the event of catastrophes.
“This report makes clear that there are some areas of our country’s preparedness that need strengthening up,” said Sen. Bob Casey, who co-chairs the Senate Caucus on Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.
FEMA’s dearth of information has left the agency dangerously in the dark, and the situation hasn’t improved since Superstorm Sandy hit large parts of the eastern seaboard in 2012, causing significant damage in New Jersey, from which the state is still recovering. Instead of taking the lead and coordinating efforts between different federal agencies, both FEMA and the Energy Department failed to effectively communicate during Sandy and received strong criticism for the 182 deaths and $65 billion dollars worth of damage which followed the storm.
More generally, the GAO noted that assuming a nuclear attack struck tomorrow, it would take at least five years for the agency to even formulate a strategy to detect unsafe radiation levels. It would take longer still–between five and ten years–to come up with an adequate medical response. According to GAO, FEMA needs to do a much better job at leading cooperation and setting objectives with clear deadlines and clear costs.
Jim Crumpacker for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which currently oversees FEMA, stated that it will try and implement all the GAO corrections by June of next year, but noted that the DHS lacks the authority to compel agencies to follow through, meaning that the June deadline is incredibly optimistic.
GAO listed 102 corrections for federal agencies to implement, including improving emergency coordination with states themselves, training for employees on how to effectively access and use electronic medical records, and ensuring proper transportation in place for the injured.
Nuclear management has been an ever-present item on the federal government agenda as nuclear assets have continued to slide into disrepair since the end of the Cold War, in some cases leading to unsafe conditions and questions as to whether the U.S. is capable of harnessing its nuclear arsenal. As of November, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has stated that a full review of the nuclear arsenal is necessary after a blistering report found serious infrastructure problems.
The GAO report is a series of reports which will be released in the coming months by the non-partisan government watchdog agency.
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