WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House has passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that requires federal agencies to take disaster resilience into account when investing in and managing federal property and assets. 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. The legislation, which was passed by the Senate in June, now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“The federal government – the nation’s largest property owner – must work to limit financial damages to public buildings after extreme weather events,” said Senator Peters. “By ensuring that agencies are investing in resilient infrastructure that can stand up to increasingly extreme natural disasters, this legislation will protect our federal property assets and save taxpayer dollars.”
“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. Peters’ legislation would 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, would 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 would 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 would 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 would require the OMB Director to brief the committee on the implementation of guidance across agencies within two years.
Peters has led numerous efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and efficiently. His bipartisan bill to save taxpayer dollars by ensuring public buildings use energy-efficient lighting has been signed into law. Earlier this year, he convened a hearing to ensure emergency relief funds have been effectively used to help Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Peters’ bipartisan bill to save taxpayer dollars by ensuring federal property assets are disaster resilient has advanced in the Senate. Peters’ provision to help save billions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals was signed into law last Congress. A law written by Peters to reduce duplicative software purchases called the MEGABYTE Act has saved taxpayers more than $450 million since 2016.