NEED FOR CHANGE
Funding for NEHRP has focused on research to increase knowledge about earthquakehazards and on engineering techniques to reduce earthquake losses. The mitigationpractices developed through research and development must be voluntarilyadopted by bodies largely outside the control of the federal government.As a consequence, the degree of national earthquake risk reduction envisionedby many has not been achieved (Appendix A2). There needs to be additionaleducation of people about the risk of earthquake hazards in their regionand the employment of steps which can be taken to mitigate these hazards.
NEHRP's research and development programs demonstrate that the cost of seismicsafety for protection of life rarely exceeds two percent of the constructioncost for well-designed new buildings. However, new construction changesthe entire American building inventory by as little as one percent eachyear. This means that new construction reduces the potential number of casualties,damaged buildings, and corresponding social/economic disruptions causedby earthquakes by only a very small percentage each year. Furthermore, thenormal time required to research a new idea, move it through code acceptance,and into widespread practice can be more than a decade. Thus even over severaldecades, earthquake loss reduction will be modest in much of the UnitedStates despite any great breakthroughs which have or may occur in scienceand engineering--unless greater attention is given to improving the performanceof existing buildings and lifelines.
The initial NEHRP legislation envisioned the federal role as that of a providerof information. Subsequent amendments to the legislation added the rolesof stimulating and promoting risk reduction actions. However, the actuallevel of such actions as evidenced by the adoption of earthquake resistantbuilding codes by local or state governments has not kept pace with expectations.This gap between risk reduction action to date and expectations has ledto the recommendation from the Advisory Committee of the National EarthquakeHazard Reduction Program that NEHRP "incorporate a programmatic implementationmechanism that creates strong incentives for the adoption of earthquakerisk reduction measures..." These issues are complex and require extensiveanalysis to ensure that policies have the intended consequences; their resolutionwill likely require legislation. Some of these issues are currently beingaddressed by a working group led by the National Economic Council. Otherswould be addressed by the Program Office envisioned in the new NationalEarthquake loss reduction Program (NEP).
Besides the four agencies designated by the National Earthquake ReductionAct, a number of other agencies also have a fundamental interest in, andhave significantly investigated, earthquake risk reduction. The Departmentof Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense (Army Corps of Engineers andNavy), Department of Energy, Department of Transportation (Federal HighwayAdministration), Department of Health and Human Services, Department ofHousing and Urban Development, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission all engagein substantial independent hazard identification and risk reduction programsfor their mission-oriented programs, and the National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration (NASA) is active in earthquake process research as part ofits Mission to Planet Earth. The earthquake-related activities of thesenon-NEHRP agencies have in the past lacked an integrating mechanism.
In November 1993 the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committeeon Science, Space and Technology and a bipartisan group of eight other Representativessigned a letter to the President outlining continuing concern about theFederal government's efforts to reduce the nation's earthquake losses. Theirmain concerns focused on NEHRP and were basically threefold: 1) a lack ofstrategic planning; 2) insufficient coordination and implementation of researchresults; 3) and a lack of emphasis on mitigation. The January 1994 NorthridgeEarthquake gave a greater sense of urgency and importance to the issue.
To address the need to make NEHRP and our nation's earthquake research effortmore effective, Dr. John H. Gibbons, Presidential Science Advisor and Directorof the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), directed in March1994 that a study under the auspices of the Office of Science and TechnologyPolicy (OSTP) be undertaken to review the research and implementation issuesrelated to earthquake hazards. The review examined the performance and effectivenessof the national earthquake program from two perspectives: 1) earthquakeresearch and development (R&D) performed under the sponsorship of theNEHRP, and 2) the implementation of knowledge gained from this R&D in reducingearthquake losses. The review was conducted under the direction of the President'sNational Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and was coordinated withthe Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction.
The review activities were conducted by the National Earthquake StrategyWorking Group (NESW), with membership drawn from over a dozen federal agenciesin addition to the four NEHRP agencies, and was sponsored and chaired byOSTP (participation listed in Appendix B1). An important element of thereview was a National Earthquake Strategy Workshop convened by OSTP andheld in Washington, D.C., June 6-8, 1994. The workshop included representativesfrom each of the NESW agencies and a full spectrum of the user community,from architects, earth scientists, earthquake engineers, emergency managersto social scientists, building officials, and facility owners (listed inAppendix B2). The workshop was used to identify the user community's viewson priorities and goals for a National Earthquake Loss Reduction Strategy,the level of effort required to meet these goals, and the necessary federalcoordination mechanisms.