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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

New law requires agencies consider disaster resilience for investments in federal property, assets

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With President Joe Biden’s signature, the Disaster Resiliency Planning Act became law this week, launching a bipartisan measure that requires federal agencies to factor in disaster resilience for investments in and management of federal property and assets.

Extreme weather has picked up pace in recent years due to climate change, and with it, so too have natural disasters. These can require expensive fixes for hospitals, research centers, infrastructure, etc. A 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) – a primary driving force behind this bill – found that the federal government had spent billions just to repair federal property damage caused by natural disasters in the previous five years.

“Worsening natural disasters continue to cause physical and financial damage to property in Michigan and across the nation,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), one of the bill’s authors, said. “This new law will ensure that the federal government – our nation’s largest property owner – is planning for the impacts of floods, wildfires, and storms when managing public buildings. This will save taxpayer dollars and ensure that federal infrastructure is resilient to natural disasters that are only worsening due to climate change.”

According to the 2021 GAO report, some agencies had already begun moving to incorporate disaster resilience into their plans to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, and studies had shown consistently that resilience and mitigation spending routinely saved taxpayers an average of $6 for every $1 spent. However, there was no overarching plan for this, and the new bill ensured that all would follow the same playbook. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will collaborate with GAO and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish guidance for their resilience efforts.

The bill was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Flood Coalition Action.

“In Florida, we know how valuable pre-disaster mitigation is, and that preparedness saves lives,” said U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who co-authered the bill. “With this good bill now law, federal assets like hospitals and critical infrastructure will be safer when disaster inevitably strikes. We are resilient because we prepare, and I am proud to see our bipartisan and commonsense approach to disaster mitigation efforts signed into law.”

The legislation will also require the OMB Director to report to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee detailing any new guidance within a year. Similarly, the director will have to brief the committee on implementing guidance across agencies within two years. Peters is the chair of that committee.