Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rick Scott (R-FL) that requires federal agencies to take disaster resilience into account when investing in and managing federal property and assets has been signed into law.
The legislation builds off of a 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that over the past five years, the government spent billions of dollars to repair federal property damage resulting from natural disasters. As extreme weather events become more frequent, the bill will help ensure that federal property – such as hospitals, research centers, offices, and roads and bridges – can withstand worsening natural disasters and save taxpayer dollars that would be spent on damages.
“Worsening natural disasters continue to cause physical and financial damage to property in Michigan and across the nation,” said Senator Peters. “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.”
“In Florida, we know how valuable pre-disaster mitigation is and that preparedness saves lives. With this good bill now law, federal assets like hospitals and critical infrastructure will be safer when disaster inevitably strikes,” said Senator Rick Scott. “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 business community has long supported building smart, modern, resilient infrastructure. We commend Chairman Peters and Sen. Scott for their leadership in ensuring that federal agencies must consider resilience and effectively manage assets, just like the private sector,” said Marty Durbin, Senior Vice President for Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The bipartisan Disaster Resiliency & Planning Act is commonsense, good public policy.”
“A significant amount of taxpayer dollars hang in the balance every year for the planning, maintenance, and building of federal resources, and other investment decisions,” said Melissa Roberts, Executive Director, American Flood Coalition Action. “As flooding and other disasters become more frequent and severe, it is essential that federal leaders are armed with risk assessments and resilience plans that can drive smart investment and maintenance decisions. American Flood Coalition Action applauds Chairman Gary Peters and Senator Rick Scott for their bipartisan leadership in introducing the Disaster Resiliency Planning Act. The law will ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively, while making federal assets and their surrounding communities more resilient.”
In September 2021, the GAO released a report evaluating how federal agencies are working to prevent or reduce damage to their property and assets caused by natural disasters. The report found that while some agencies have begun taking steps to incorporate disaster resilience, many still have not taken sufficient action to mitigate the effects of extreme weather. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers an average of $6 for every $1 invested. The senators’ legislation will not only save taxpayer dollars, but ensure federal property and infrastructure is able to withstand natural disasters as they continue to grow more frequent and more severe.
The Disaster Resiliency Planning Act, which builds off of a recommendation from the GAO report, will require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide federal agencies with guidance on how to incorporate natural disaster resilience into their asset management and investment decisions. OMB will work in consultation with GAO and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish guidance, which will help federal agencies identify potential gaps in their disaster resilience prevention efforts. The legislation will also require the OMB Director to submit a report to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee detailing the guidance within a year. Finally, the legislation will require the OMB Director to brief the committee on the implementation of guidance across agencies within two years.