ORGANIZATION OF THE U.S. DECADE
Organizational arrangements for the U.S. Decade must be able to draw all potential participants and use their capabilities and resources. A successful Decade requires strong government leadership and commitment at all levels — local, state, and federal. It also depends on the participation of individuals, professional associations, volunteer organizations, industry, academics, and others. The structure must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in programs and priorities as the Decade proceeds. The Committee believes that creating a new bureaucracy is counter to these goals. Instead, the Decade should build on existing organizations and seek to improve communication and coordination among them. New partnerships for disaster reduction should be forged and refined throughout these 10 years.
Similar flexibility should characterize U.S. interaction with the IDNDR. An international structure has been designed to allow for the widest possible variety of activities undertaken by scientific and technical associations, voluntary and nongovernmental organizations, governments, international organizations, and others. U.S. structures for international participation should parallel the letter and spirit of these arrangements.
Notwithstanding the need for flexibility, identification of responsibility for U.S. Decade activities is essential. Political philosophy and practice would place that responsibility squarely with government. Virtually irrespective of political ideology, citizens' fundamental expectations of government include protection against threats to safety, basic health, and well-being. Natural disasters are clearly that kind of threat, and government has assumed much of the duty of preparing for and responding to them. It then follows that government would take responsibility for Decade action, with active involvement of heads of government at all levels.
Within the federal government, the overall Decade program involves most departments and many independent agencies. It must receive the highest possible attention if it is to make a qualitative difference in reducing vulnerability to natural disasters. For these reasons, the Committee recommends that the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy take responsibility for policy direction, planning, and coordination of federal Decade efforts.
Federal agencies have made an important contribution to establishing the U.S. Decade through the efforts of the Subcommittee for Natural Disaster Reduction (SNDR) of the President's Science Advisor's Committee on Earth Sciences. The SNDR supports the National Committee and is developing a plan of action for federal science and disaster reduction agencies. As the Decade's national and international activities increase, the Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology should consider establishing a committee at a higher level focusing solely on the Decade and formally involving all key departments and independent agencies with responsibility for disaster reduction activities. The committee could build on the work of the SNDR to develop an action program that addresses science and technology, domestic implementation, and international cooperation. A primary goal would be to foster partnerships for action among the U.S.
government and all participants in national and international disaster reduction efforts. Department of State and Agency for International Development representation is critical to integration of international efforts in the U.S. program.
Irrespective of the location of oversight responsibility, the work of saving lives and limiting loss should begin. Adequate funding is crucial to this endeavor; thus federal disaster reduction programs and budgets should be defined by 1991, and coordinated budget requests should begin in FY1993.
The federal role in disaster reduction cannot be discussed without specific mention of FEMA. FEMA has significant national responsibilities in most areas of hazard reduction, particularly for awareness, education, mitigation, preparedness, and recovery. The agency operates under various statutes dealing with multihazard emergency management. By law, the civil defense program may support all natural and technological hazards, provided that implementation does not detract from attack preparedness. The Committee believes that attack preparedness — even as implemented under the dualuse (nuclear attack and natural disaster) concept — has consumed a high percentage of the agency's budget and a similarly disproportionate share of the human resources. With the recent diminution of Cold War threats and the important changes in world affairs, the nation is now in a position to enable FEMA to redress this imbalance, and a change in legislation should be considered.
By law and tradition, state and local governments are primarily responsible for many disaster functions. For example, responsibility for land-use planning and implementation of building codes — both key elements of mitigation efforts — rest primarily at the state and local levels. Most preparedness plans must be developed and implemented at the local or state level. Thus it is essential that officials and professionals at these levels participate in the Decade. The many existing disaster reduction programs in local and state agencies should form the nucleus of their Decade activities, with governors and mayors providing leadership. A high level of coordination will be required for the many agencies involved.
Natural hazards do not respect state borders but tend to affect multistate regions. One way to promote an effective response to these shared threats is through regional consortia that could provide a focal point for disaster reduction projects and information. They could also strengthen and forge relationships between the public and private sectors as well as with hazard reduction researchers and practitioners. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of the National Governors' Association could be the catalyst for creation of the consortia. A model consortium should be created as a pilot project within the first three years of the Decade. Adjustments in the model should be based on this initial experience and then replicated with regional adaptations.
Business and industry should also be partners in state and local disaster reduction efforts. Their expertise and resources should be called upon for planning and incorporated into preparedness and mitigation activities. When appropriate, multinational corporations may also participate in IDNDR activities.
Of course, business and industry's primary obligation is to their employees and shareholders. Thus it is essential that they have disaster reduction programs to protect their employees, physical plants, assets, and profits. Many businesses and industries also perform necessary functions during a disaster and in the recovery phase. The extensive work now done by industry in safety and quality assurance could be extended to emphasize natural disasters. Strategies to foster this objective include national and regional conferences of business and industry leaders and awards for disaster reduction excellence. Public disaster plans must also provide for continued functioning and recovery of vital business and industry.
There is a continuing need for a U.S. National Committee to be the facilitator of the nation's domestic and international Decade programs. Such a committee would provide a forum for all participants and would ensure the incorporation of sound scientific and technical practice. The Committee should have three principal roles: to advise the federal government on its Decade program; to facilitate coordination and communication among government agencies, the private sector, professional associations, academia, and others; and to represent nongovernmental and, as appropriate, intergovernmental international Decade activities.