FEMA tosses $40 million in MREs

Published 20 April 2007

A lack of refrigeration contributed to waste in 2006; agency now intends to hold-off on pre-positioning; ongoing delays for the Total Asset Visibility system

With hurricane season about the heat, FEMA is having some problems cooling down. According to the Washington Post, $40 million in prepared meals went to waste last summer in the Gulf Coast after federal emergency officials found that they lacked the refrigerated storage space to keep them fresh. More than six million meals ready to eat were delivered for last year’s hurricane season in the wake of post-Katrina criticism which cited FEMA for failing to adequately deliver supplies (among other demerits.) But in a sign that things are still not right with the agency, planners failed to determine what they would do if a major hurricane did not hit land. “We were so concerned over the failure of Katrina that we … probably bought more commodities and had on hand more than what otherwise might be the most prudent business choice,” said FEMA’s Harvey Johnson. “Given the pressure to perform … we didn’t want to run any chance of running out.”

Naturally, FEMA says things will be different this year. The agency plans to ship fewer supplies ahead of time, rely on military depots for storage, and move forward on plans for a supply-chain management system. The latter “Total Asset Visibility” system, however, is behind schedule. Intended to track vehicles moving through FEMA warehouses, the first phase of the program — initially slated for a June 2006 debu — has been delayed twice to October 2009. Exactly why is murky. The $71 million contract was awarded in 2005 on a no-basis to Atlanta-based Stratix, and soon after the company hired Kenneth Burris, FEMA’s former chief operating officer and a proponant of the plan as a top executive. As the Post notes, the current problems follow similar disaster-related disasters, including news that FEMA had spent $900 million on 25,000 trailers that could not survive flooding.