Departed FEMA director Michael Brown was warned weeks before Katrina that the agency's computer systems were overwhelmed and underpowered to handle its mission. A report by the agency's inspector general reviewed systems performance during the 2004 hurricane system. The IG told Brown that "FEMA’s systems do not support effective or efficient coordination of deployment operations because there is no sharing of information.
"Consequently, this created operational inefficiencies and hindered the delivery of essential disaster response and recovery services,” the report said. The report also found:
- FEMA’s system could not track and coordinate delivery of ice and water to Florida, resulting in millions of dollars worth of ice left unused at response centers, and $1.6 million in leftover water returned to storage.
- An estimated 200,000 victims had to wait for temporary housing aid from disaster assistance employees because of backlogged computers.
- Emergency personnel were potentially put at risk because the system did not provide real-time disaster warnings and other information.
Amazingly, FEMA CIO Barry West's response was to dismiss the report as "negative."
“We believe this characterization is inaccurate and does not acknowledge the highly performing, well managed and staffed (informational technology) systems supporting FEMA incident response and recovery," West wrote.