Although the second session of the 108th Congress was marked by stalemate
and partisan tensions, one achievement was the passage, in October,
of a reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.
This act (H.R. 2608, now Public Law 108-360), authorizes appropriations
for the program through FY 2009, and transfers the primary responsibility
for planning and coordinating program activities from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) to the National Institute of Standards and
According to the act, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program
is an interagency program, with funding authorized for activities by
NIST, FEMA, NSF and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The program is
intended to support activities such as interdisciplinary research to
improve the understanding of earthquakes and their effects, and the
development of measures to reduce earthquake hazards. Adoption of such
measures by federal, state and local governments and non-governmental
entities such as architects, engineers and builders, may be promoted
through such means as grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, technical
assistance, and the development of standards and information repositories.
The act also authorizes the development, operation and maintenance of
an Advanced National Seismic Research and Monitoring System.
Additionally, it establishes an Interagency Coordinating Committee
on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, and a non-federal Advisory Committee.
The Interagency Coordinating Committee will be chaired by the director
of NIST, and to be composed of the directors of FEMA, USGS, NSF, the
Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management
and Budget. It is tasked with preparing and updating "a strategic
plan that establishes goals and priorities for the Program activities,"
a detailed management plan to implement the strategic plan, a coordinated
interagency budget, and annual reports to Congress. Additional provisions
are included on Windstorm Impact Reduction and Commercial Space Transportation.
The act authorizes, through FY 2009, the following amounts for earthquake
hazard reduction activities:
George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation:
However, it is important to keep in mind that authorizing legislation
only specifies guidelines for funding; it is the actual appropriators
who must provide the funds.