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January 25, 2011 - ASCE Letter - Opposing cuts to the FEMA Earthquake Program

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January 25, 2011

W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

I am writing on behalf of the 140,000 members of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to express our concern about funding cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Earthquake Program, which is part of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). It is our understanding that the program has been cut by $1.2 million, or 17%, and that those funds have been re-allocated to other programs within FEMA.

ASCE believes it is a misuse of tax-payers’ money to cut project funding as the project enters its final phase and after having invested almost $10 million to develop the performance-based design methodology. It is our understanding that the FEMA Building Science Branch has decided to terminate the work that has been described as Phase 2 in the FEMA 445 document: Developing Performance-Based Seismic Design Procedures and Guidelines. The purpose of Phase 2, a multi-year effort, is to develop seismic design procedures and guidelines to assist engineers in designing buildings to meet desired performance goals and to assist stakeholders in taking advantage of the benefits of performance-base design. Without the final portion of the project, bringing this important damage reduction technology to fruition and the possibility of achieving the ultimate goal and intent of the overall project will be lost. 

It should also be noted that the Senate and House Appropriations Committee Report for the Department of Homeland Security specifically states that the FEMA Earthquake Program is to be funded at $8.977 million for FY 2010, and by extension under the current Continuing Resolution, for FY 2011 as well. For the FEMA Mitigation Directorate to cut the FEMA Earthquake Program funds below that level is a violation of the direction from Congress and threatens the NEHRP and our nation’s ability to recover from the next earthquake disaster.

ASCE urges you to reconsider the decision to cut funding to this important program. Thank you for the opportunity to express ASCE’s views. If you or your staff have any questions, please to not hesitate to contact Martin Hight, ASCE’s Senor Manager of Government Relations at 202-789-7843 or mhight@asce.org.

Sincerely,

Kathy J. Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE
President