WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which 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 help save taxpayer dollars.
“The federal government is our nation’s largest property owner and must work to limit physical and financial damage to federal buildings when disasters strike,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense bill will save taxpayer dollars by making sure agencies are investing in resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters. Now that it has passed the Senate, I urge my colleagues in the House to send this legislation to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
“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.”
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 worsen.
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. He recently convened a hearing to ensure pandemic emergency relief funds have been effectively used to help Americans affected by COVID-19. Peters’ bipartisan bill to save taxpayer dollars by ensuring federal property assets are disaster resilient has advanced in the Senate. As a part of the American Rescue Plan, Peters secured $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund to modernize federal government systems that deliver critical services, like unemployment insurance, to Americans. 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.