Summary of Hearings on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Program (NEHRP; 6-25-04)
- May 8, 2003: House Science Subcommittee
on Research Hearing on "The National Earthquake Hazards
Reduction Program: Past, Present, and Future."
- June 24, 2004: Senate Subcommittee on
Science, Technology and Space Hearing on H.R. 2608, National
Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of
Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space
Hearing on H.R. 2608, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Program Reauthorization Act of 2003
June 24, 2004
David Applegate, Senior Science Advisor for Earthquakes and Geologic
Hazards, U.S. Geological Survey
Archibald Reid, Deputy Director, Mitigation Division, Emergency Preparedness
and Response Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
S. Shyam-Sunder, Acting Deputy Director, Building and Fire Research
Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Galip Ulsoy, Director, Division of Civil & Mechanical Systems,
Directorate for Engineering, National Science Foundation
The Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space met on
June 24th to discuss the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program
Reauthorization Act of 2003 (H.R.
2608), more commonly known as NEHRP. Senator Brownback (R-KS)
presided over the hearing and was joined by Senator Wyden (D-OR) of
Oregon. All four witnesses testified that they were pleased with the
language of the bill and saw no need to make any changes.
The major difference in the new bill has been the shift of NEHRP
from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has since
been absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to the
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST is glad
to be the lead agency for NEHRP, but will continue to work with the
USGS, DHS, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the program.
S. Sunder, representative for NIST, was concerned, however, that while
they had the expertise and capability to take responsibility for NEHRP,
they did not have much flexibility in their budget to accommodate
the additional program. Sunder reported that NIST has approximately
$2 million to contribute to the program, which will leave them $6
million short. They will be forced to depend on funding contributions
from the three other organizations involved. Senator Wyden was skeptical
of the role DHS would play in NEHRP due to their budget constraints
and manmade disaster focus.
Dr. Applegate from the USGS proposed that an advisory committee be
formed to provide stronger direction for all agencies involved in
the NEHRP program. He also explained to Senator Brownback how NEHRP
is providing assistance to other seismically active countries by creating
a global seismographic network similar to the Advanced National Seismic
System (ANSS) created for the United
States. Currently, data is being collected around the world by the
USGS and NSF funded research projects that will be combined with population
data to generate a shake
map, allowing foreign governments to know the extent and seriousness
of an earthquake in a matter of minutes, not hours.
House Science Subcommittee
Hearing on "The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program:
Past, Present, and Future."
May 8, 2003
Anthony Lowe, Director, Mitigation Division, Emergency Preparedness
and Response Directorate, Department of Homeland Security (Formerly
the Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Dr. Robert Olson, President, Robert Olson Associates, Inc.
Dr. Lloyd Cluff, Director, Geosciences Department and Earthquake
Risk Management Program, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Dr. Thomas O'Rourke, President, Earthquake Engineering Research
Dr. Lawrence Reaveley, Professor and Chair of the Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Utah
In preparation for reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards
Reduction Program (NEHRP), the House Science Subcommittee on Research
held a hearing on May 8, 2003, to examine the program's current status.
The hearing coincidentally occurred after two recent earthquakes in
the eastern U.S., causing Subcommittee Chair Nick Smith (R-MI) to
remind the audience that earthquakes are "not just a west coast
problem" and that NEHRP has contributed significantly towards
improving the nation's understanding of earthquakes. Testimony
from the witnesses reflected positively on NEHRP's accomplishments,
stressed the importance of improving funding to further the program,
and critically examined the Federal Emergency Management Agency's
(FEMA) role as lead NEHRP agency.
Formerly an independent agency, FEMA has been absorbed into the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland
since the last authorization of NEHRP.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) agreed with the witnesses that funding levels,
which have declined by 40% in real dollars since 1978, are currently
too low. She suggested to Smith that they send a letter to appropriators
calling for improved funding to assure the proper resources for NEHRP.
She added that the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS)
Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS)
especially required aggressive funding. The lone federal witness,
Anthony Lowe, Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response
Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security that was formerly
FEMA, commented that currently each NEHRP agency creates its own program
budget, but the NEHRP strategic plan recommends the agencies coordinate
their budgets with each other. Smith replied that according to the
law, FEMA should have been leading and coordinating the NEHRP budget
process all along.
The representatives and the witnesses raised concern over FEMA's
handling of NEHRP. At the hearing, Lowe unveiled the 2001-2005 NEHRP
strategic plan. The strategic plan was approved in 2001 by the other
NEHRP agencies, but was first released by FEMA at the hearing. Both
Lofgren and Smith voiced strong disapproval over FEMA's two-year delay.
Lofgren went on to say that even after taking extra time with the
strategic plan, it was lacking specifics. With the move of FEMA to
the DHS, Lofgren questioned if FEMA is still the best lead agency
for NEHRP. Smith suggested that the USGS might be a more appropriate
lead, or perhaps a rotating directorate. Lowe responded that because
DHS is an all-hazard agency, NEHRP is now "more at home than
ever." He added that earthquake mitigation activities, such as
improved building codes, have also increased protection from terrorist
activities. He suggested that a research subcommittee within FEMA
might help the agency better deal with the science aspect of the program.
The subcommittee asked the witnesses to comment on the future of
NEHRP. Dr. Lloyd Cluff, Director of the Geosciences Department and
Earthquake Risk Management Program at the Pacific Gas and Electric
Company, responded that over the years NEHRP has appropriately moved
away from the goal of predicting earthquakes and towards mitigation.
With this in mind, he said shake
maps represent the future of NEHRP, but they require the extensive
deployment of ANSS and greater financial support for the USGS. Dr.
Lawrence Reaveley, Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil
and Environmental Engineering at the University of Utah, re-emphasized
the need for funding the broader program, but with more focused goals.
Dr. Thomas O'Rourke, President of the Earthquake Engineering Research
Institute (EERI), agreed with the previous comments and added that
in order to assure seismic safety, ANSS and the National Science Foundation's
Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation should remain a priority.
Cluff recommended increasing NEHRP funding three-fold as called for
in the EERI
Research and Outreach Plan. Lowe commented that the program should
be geared towards the results of saving and protecting lives and property,
and getting the strategic plan to work.
Testimony from the witnesses and additional written statements are
available on the Science Committee web
site. AGI, as part of the NEHRP Coalition, submitted a statement
for this hearing.
Sources: Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern; and Ashlee
Dere, 2004 AIG/AIPG Summer Intern..
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on June 25, 2004.