WASHINGTON – After repeated calls from U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to ensure that prepositioned contracts are competitively awarded in advance of future disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently revealed that it has expanded its use of these contracts. In correspondence with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which maintains oversight for FEMA and where McCaskill serves as the top-ranking Democrat, FEMA revealed that it had awarded 27 prepositioned contracts since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last year.
“I’m happy to see the Administration moving in the right direction when it comes to effective and efficient emergency response,” McCaskill said. “As I’ve said before, prepositioned contracts can save millions in taxpayer dollars while making sure victims get the help they need, so you can bet that I’ll be watching to make sure these contracts are executed properly in the unfortunate event of a natural disaster.”
Prepositioned contracts are awarded in advance of disasters, when government agencies are not facing an urgent need for emergency goods and services and are therefore able to maximize competition, conduct market research, and thoroughly evaluate prospective contractors’ qualifications and proposals.
In the wake of last year’s destructive hurricane season, McCaskill has put an emphasis on contracting oversight. Last month, after reports showed that the State of Florida failed to execute prepositioned contracts for debris removal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, McCaskill pushed FEMA to ensure that prepositioned contracts are awarded and executed properly at the state and local level. In April, she released a scathing report that detailed significant failures by FEMA in the contracting process for emergency tarps and sheeting during last year’s hurricane season, including inadequate use of prepositioned contracts. At a Committee hearing later that month, McCaskill pressed FEMA Administrator Brock Long on the lack of prepositioned contracts for the 2017 hurricane season. In June, it was revealed that FEMA began the solicitation process for prepositioned contractors that can deliver plastic sheeting used for temporary roofing protection often needed in the wake of a hurricane, following the pressure from McCaskill in April.
In February, McCaskill revealed that a cancelled $156 million contract intended to provide 30 million meals to Puerto Rico included misrepresentations and apparent plagiarism. She has also continued to call for answers on the Whitefish contract in Puerto Rico, issuing a bipartisan call for an investigation into that contract last October and writing to FEMA last November to understand the agency’s role in the contract. She also wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year, requesting details on the nearly $1 billion it awarded to contractors to repair the electrical grid in Puerto Rico.