Home Crisis Management FEMA’s New Strategic Plan: What This Means for Federal Emergency Response

FEMA’s New Strategic Plan: What This Means for Federal Emergency Response


By Giles Hoback, III, faculty member, Emergency and Disaster Management & Fire Science Management at American Public University

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just released its 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, including updates to its mission priorities, key outcomes, and stakeholder communication. The new plan was developed in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and takes its foundation from the same review.

FEMA developed its plan under the requirements of the department’s fifth mission set: “Strengthen national preparedness and resilience.” During his introduction of the new plan, FEMA Director, Craig Fugate stated:

“This Strategic Plan is not a check-the-box document that will sit on a shelf. It was developed through the participation of a large group of dedicated people, and the Plan will be executed by the entire Agency working together with external partners. I am committed to basing FEMA’s resource decisions going forward on achieving the outcomes we have set forth in this Plan.”1

The five strategic priorities listed in the plan and some of the key outcomes are what will help drive interagency operations and FEMA responses over the next four years.

Priority One
The first priority is for FEMA to be “Survivor–Centric in Mission and Program Delivery.” This means that FEMA is to help focus communities and their leadership on what to do before a disaster occurs. Training, mitigation strategies, planning, and focused direction are some of the important elements of this priority. FEMA is to help Disaster team picget jurisdictions prepared for, and better able to respond to, an emergency so they are more self-sufficient, making FEMA more efficient in its assistance and delivery of aid. If a community is better equipped to mitigate and recover from disasters, then the demand for those types of services should be generally lowered and the agency can be more focused and effective in areas of greater need.

Priority Two
FEMA’s second priority is to “Become an Expeditionary Organization.” The three key outcomes of this priority are all directed towards making incident operations more efficient at mobilization and sustainable during long term operational periods.

  1. Build a unified and coordinated Federal response and ensure recovery operations successfully support and complement state, local, tribal, and territorial operations
  2. FEMA’s incident work force is appropriately staffed and managed to rapidly mobilize, efficiently deploy, and effectively engage in multiple sustained operations in the response, recovery, and mitigation mission areas
  3. Incident operations are efficient, timely, and predictable1

Priority Three
The third priority is to “Posture and Build Capability for Catastrophic Disasters”, which deals with preparedness and partnership initiatives that fill gaps in the national response structure. This priority builds on the idea that communities should help their neighboring communities and be prepared to assist other jurisdictions with pre-established response assistance, equipment, or supplies. The agency will also be responsible for keeping track of an inventory of capabilities from various stakeholders. FEMA is directed to “lead the effort to prepare the Nation for a catastrophic event, engaging the whole community to harness and enhance the capabilities of citizens and communities.”1

Priority Four
FEMA’s fourth priority is to “Enable Disaster Risk Reduction Nationally” under the new plan. Risk reduction and risk communications are essential elements of any consequence management or preparedness plan.

“FEMA plays an important role in developing, coordinating, and disseminating quality risk assessment data and tools. In support of this objective, FEMA will continue to maintain and advance the Agency’s principal risk-assessment tools and the Nation’s flood risk maps. FEMA will modernize these resources by improving their accuracy and making them more accessible and useful to the whole community…The Agency will also work to improve risk education nationwide, so more people recognize the value of this information and know how to use the tools and data effectively.”1

Thus, FEMA is expected to be a leader in risk assessments, risk communication, risk management, and risk reduction, in order to help communities learn how to manage these issues at a more local level.

Priority Five
The final priority in FEMA’s new plan requires the agency to “Strengthen FEMA’s Organizational Foundation.” This is directing FEMA to:

  • Continue to find ways to work and respond more efficiently
  • Develop good internal business practices
  • Be more fiscally responsible
  • Leverage new technology & data analysis
  • Develop its workforce to be more capable and prepared.

“FEMA will leverage technology and training to develop a data-savvy and data-enabled workforce using accessible, interconnected, and streamlined processes. The Agency will take cues from the private sector to enhance its technological capabilities, making the collection and sharing of information a seamless and intuitive experience for employees and survivors. Ensuring that decisions made throughout the emergency management process are evidence-based will strengthen the Nation’s resilience to disasters.”1

FEMA needs to improve and increase its capabilities in these areas so it can be prepared to be a leader in emergency response for years to come. By increasing its internal capabilities and leadership capacity, the agency can help assist and lead initiatives aimed at helping local jurisdictions’ leadership. Their growth and development needs to be an agent of change and an asset of development for other agencies to model.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan is the cornerstone strategy for the agency to do just that. By implementing this plan, FEMA should improve its emergency response capabilities, inter-agency partnerships, and leadership foothold, while becoming more fiscally efficient and well-rounded in its risk mitigation strategies and technological capabilities.

About the Author: Professor Giles Hoback serves as adjunct faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies. He has over 20 years of experience in public safety and is a retired Lieutenant (O-3) with the U.S. Coast Guard. His experience includes tactical law enforcement, emergency response, incident command, anti-terrorism, narcotics, and homeland security. He has held leadership roles, written training and response plans, is a firefighter with advanced training, and a member of the International Association of Emergency Managers. His passion for serving others is matched only by his passion for training and educating others to do the same. Contact him at giles.hoback@mycampus.apus.edu or follow him on Twitter @PublicSafetyEDU.


1 Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/96981




  1. I used this as a building block for a discussion in my grad class. Thanks for the great info and analysis! Thought you might want to know someone is reading and appreciating your work. Thanks again!


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