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 Technology (NIST).
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: $104,590,000.
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.