Lauren Alexander Augustine, director of the Office of Special Projects and the Program on Risk, Resilience, and Extreme Events at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies), provided opening remarks stating, “We know that many organizations, people, federal agencies, companies, individuals, towns, communities, and others are doing a lot to improve the resilience of their place. The time is ripe to get a sense of who is doing what, where, and how it is working. Is there an appetite growing? Can we learn from each other? Did some things work better than others? If you had to make a decision, what would you do next?” She encouraged participants to not only highlight what has already been done to build resilience, but to also consider what the future of resilience looks like and the next big questions that need to be addressed.
Augustine introduced C. Dan Mote, president of the National Academy of Engineering, who began by thanking the many people working toward resilience from federal agencies, the military, cities and counties, and the private sector. He cited the motivation behind the workshop as an effort to move resilience from idea to norm and from norm to action, urging participants to consider what it takes to build not just a culture of resilience but a proactive culture of resilience.
Mote drew comparisons between the history of society’s response to human disease and its response to fostering resilience. Just as the stages in medicine include prevention, treatment, and recovery, resilience efforts
include preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. In human health, treatment receives most of the attention because it cannot be postponed, just as most of the attention given to disasters focuses on response. However, he emphasized, investments in prevention and preparation yield the greatest return.
Mote described his view of the three characteristics of a culture of resilience: a network of systems, strategic thinking, and leadership. First, an integrated systems approach brings together technological, societal, health, emergency, security, economic, political, environmental, and other systems that work in harmony and are interdependent with each other. He provided the hypothetical example of creating open green space in communities that could restrain floodwaters during high water events, and simultaneously benefit local ecosystem processes, increase property values, and strengthen the social fabric of the community. Investments in building a culture of resilience should consider a range of benefits across multiple systems.
Second, Mote noted that strategic thinking connects the decisions and actions of today to the outcomes anticipated from tomorrow’s disasters. Part of building a culture of resilience requires understanding the risk that a community faces, ways to communicate those risks to the community and its decision makers, and the consequences of those high-risk outcomes. Strategic thinking relies on tools such as catastrophe models, predictive models, risk assessments, and consequence analysis.
The third characteristic of a culture of resilience is leadership. Mote contends that leaders make decisions under uncertain conditions, incorporating strategic as well as tactical thinking. Leaders also make decisions knowing that the benefits may not be realized until much later, often after their term of office. He emphasized the role of the science and engineering communities in helping leaders create a culture of resilience by providing information and helping to interpret, translate, and decipher information to increase its usefulness to decision makers.
Mote closed by noting the engagement of the Resilient America Roundtable with communities in the city and county of Charleston, South Carolina; the City of Cedar Rapids and Linn County, Iowa; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the Central Puget Sound region, Washington. He asked participants to consider their role in preparing their neighborhood, community, or country to be a part of a culture of resilience.
Andrea Seabrook of National Public Radio moderated a discussion with Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Michael Berkowitz, president of the 100 Resilient Cities program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. This discussion focused on ways that local officials can and should use policy tools to increase community resilience nationwide. She opened the session by asking the panelists, “How do you get politicians to want to do something and spend money on something that, if it goes right, no one will notice?”
Berkowitz opened by pointing to the “long-term, slow burn disasters,” explaining that addressing chronic stressors—such as lack of access to food and water, high levels of crime and violence, and failing infrastructure—will start to show daily benefits. The high-frequency, low-impact, day-to-day stresses are something that politicians can take credit for on an immediate basis. Fugate talked about the importance of preserving the community’s tax base (today and into an unpredictable future), noting that this can be a powerful signal for resilience. If a community’s tax base is not resilient, the community cannot provide services or be resilient itself. Fugate suggested the question of, “Are the decisions that are being made around constructing homes and businesses creating more vulnerability?” In other words, are homes and businesses insurable by the private sector (a long-term view) or will they require a taxpayer subsidy (a short-term view)? Making decisions based on a long-term view of the tax base can increase resilience.
Fugate went on to discuss how long commutes to a resident’s place of employment or inadequate transportation options could negatively affect a community’s ability to be resilient. If residents experience higher costs or longer commute times, many choose to move closer to urban centers, which can diminish their former communities’ tax base. Resilience, in this case, involves bringing residents and their places of employment closer together, either through mass transit (to make it easier for people to get to jobs) or economic development in bedroom communities (to bring jobs to the people). Berkowitz agreed with the value of creating multiple economic centers, not just a single concentration of jobs in a large downtown. For example, in New York City, planning is underway to create opportunities that allow citizens to live within 40 minutes of their employment. This requires movement of economic development to Queens and the Bronx, so that “all of our eggs aren’t in the midtown, downtown basket” in Manhattan.
Seabrook asked each speaker to describe their view of the differences
between resilient infrastructure (with a focus on engineering) and the broader concept of community resilience (specifically, the web of relationships that create community resilience). Berkowitz spoke about two types of resilience with regard to infrastructure: 1) infrastructure that does not degrade easily and is resilient to a hazard, and 2) infrastructure that promotes resilience by bringing communities together, enhancing the natural environment, and helping to create a more tight-knit, stronger community. He noted the cross-Bronx expressway in New York City as an example of infrastructure that is extremely resilient from an engineering perspective; its construction, however, divided the north and south sides of the city, creating a community of downward mobility and contributing to the city’s resilience challenges. Berkowitz concluded, “To design and build a bridge which is an engineering feat that is resilient is one thing, but to design infrastructure that makes the city more resilient is something else.”
Fugate commented on the commonly expressed resilience goal of building back better, which, in practice, often means building back based on cost–benefit analysis. Cost–benefit analysis uses data from past events to make decisions about the future. However, these data can be misleading if it fails to reflect changing environmental trends, population density, and technology. For example, within the context of Hurricane Sandy, Fugate asked, “What do we build back to?” If past data are inadequate or do not take into account future risk and trends such as sea level rise, how is future risk being determined? One place to look, he suggested, is the reinsurance industry, which builds risk into its investment strategies; for example, a structure insured by the private sector could be an indicator that it is a worthwhile risk.
Berkowitz added that there are things that communities can think about now when developing a resilient strategy or recovery plan that could help them make better decisions later. Immediately following a disaster, it can be difficult to identify and implement effective mitigation actions. However, thoughtful planning in advance of a disaster can help a community to identify smarter options for building back should an event occur.
Fugate proposed two questions to consider when providing guidance for making development decisions that promote greater resilience. How could the federal government use insurance rather than government grants or other tools to guide decision-making around investments in building resilience in their community? Moreover, how can federal, state, and local governments share the responsibility for the risk more effectively following a disaster? Fugate described a combination of actions the federal government
could take including disincentives for communities that opt not to carry insurance on structures that should be insured, tighter insurance requirements after a community rebuilds, and credit that could be applied to states and communities based on the percentage of structures they insure, and for resilience-promoting building codes and land use.
Seabrook asked how a community can ensure that the determination of risk is fair and does not include racial or economic profiling, since insurance companies’ processes of determining risk are largely unknown to the public. Fugate responded that insurance companies’ numbers are highly focused on the risk to a parcel of land over a certain period of time. He acknowledged that the high cost of insurance could sometimes make a community unaffordable for lower-income residents. This is an important policy issue because in a community where the price of insurance is high, policymakers may want to maintain a community of different income levels to retain teachers, firefighters, and other moderate-income professionals. In order to do this, communities will need to subsidize residents’ protection against the risk and to promote actions that decrease the risk over time.
An audience member asked whether federal funding for emergency response could be prioritized at the regional level. Fugate responded that this is unlikely given that every senator and representative must answer to his or her constituents. However, he added that relying on federal dollars is not sustainable in the long term and indicated it is important to bring the broader community to the table, for instance by engaging the private sector in finding investment opportunities that would be both profitable and locally relevant. Fugate mentioned the Earth Genome Project1 as an example of the private sector taking action in an area traditionally addressed by government. In collaboration with other institutions, the Earth Genome Project designed a tool2 that helps corporations that require large amounts of water to make better decisions around water maintenance and use, and identify green solutions.
Berkowitz also pointed to an innovative partnership between Veolia and Swiss Re, a resource management and a reinsurance company, respec-
2 The Green Infrastructure Support Tool, created by the Earth Genome Project, in collaboration with Arizona State University, Dow, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, “identifies and evaluates wetland restoration opportunities to support a more predictable and sustainable water supply to the Freeport facility. Wetlands store water during deluge and release water during dry spells, much like engineered solutions like reservoirs.”
tively, which is exploring ways to finance improvements for and recovery of cities’ infrastructure systems following disasters; the first project will be focused on water infrastructure in New Orleans. Berkowitz suggested that this type of partnership is more sustainable in the long term. Cities will not become resilient if they keep waiting for federal or philanthropic dollars.
Seabrook reflected on the need for solid data about specific risks and asked the speakers to talk about their metrics of success. Fugate talked about the importance of “putting data in one spot” and communicating risk openly as a basis for decision makers to make informed decisions. Los Angeles, for example, makes its data available on public platforms and provides tools that the public can access with information about the city, such as where crimes are happening, where job growth is occurring, and when a street will be resurfaced.
Berkowitz acknowledged that resilient cities have strong a civil society and a strong private sector that are integrated at different levels of the government, adding, “An entire ecosystem is what enables the city to bounce back from a disaster.” However, he recognized that data at the city level tend to exist in siloes. In light of rapid urbanization and climate change impacts, Berkowitz encouraged the development of common data platforms that allow city government and residents to evaluate data simultaneously on a range of items; for example, city capacity, city risk, where the best property owners are, where the flood damages are, and who the code violators are.
Finally, Berkowitz stated that measuring resilience is a big challenge, but it is a key part of understanding the efficacy of specific interventions in building community resilience. If a city can understand what the impact of a particular intervention would be on its resilience, then it would be easier to design financing around those interventions to really move the needle. A forward-looking city is one that is approaching its issues holistically, and is diverse, walkable, dense, and economically integrated.
The second panel focused on how leaders at the local level build resilience. Andrea Seabrook introduced Mayor Michael Seibert of Joplin, Missouri; County Commissioner Chip LaMarca of Broward County, Florida; and Mayor Ben McAdams of Salt Lake County, Utah, to discuss actions that their communities are taking to build local resilience.
Mayor Seibert began by talking about the devastating tornado that
Joplin experienced in 2011, which resulted in 161 lives lost and massive property damages. Property losses included the devastation of 7,000 homes or apartments, one of the city’s two major medical institutions, one-third of its middle schools, half of its grade schools, and its only high school; 550 businesses were also damaged or destroyed. Seabrook asked how the community recovered and worked toward building greater resilience. According to Mayor Seibert, the key to community revitalization was the federal, state, and local partners, and the many volunteers who came to Joplin to help with the response and recovery. More than 185,000 people arrived, gifting more than 1.5 million hours of their time. He explained that 5 years later, Joplin’s population is higher than before the disaster and while the city lost 10 percent of the businesses following the tornado, 300 new businesses have since come to the community. An audience member asked whether Joplin developed a way to track and influence interagency collaboration and volunteers. Mayor Seibert replied that for the volunteer effort, AmeriCorps played a key role. They assisted with the placement and deployment of volunteers, coordinated and tracked volunteer efforts, and kept accountability of their time.
Seabrook asked County Commissioner LaMarca how he convinces decision makers to invest in resilience-related projects without being able to point to a recent disaster such as the tornado experienced in Joplin. County Commissioner LaMarca pointed to the importance of tourism in the community. Rather than focusing on hurricanes or coastal flooding, the city demonstrated to the state legislature the return on investment for maintaining healthy beaches, along with the infrastructure and coastal routes that support those beach communities. He cited that in a recent year, 53.3 million tourists spent $14.2 billion in Florida, with the majority of them spending at least some time on the beach. County Commissioner LaMarca stated, “If that beach isn’t there, they’re not coming.”
Mayor McAdams noted that disaster is inevitable for every community and shared some of the steps Salt Lake County is taking to be prepared for an event. Preparations are countywide, and focus on a major earthquake predicted to occur in the next 50 years. Salt Lake County is working not only on emergency preparedness for the first 24 or 48 hours after a disaster, but to ensure it is prepared to bounce back quickly. Mayor McAdams commented that the county is very prepared for the immediate emergency but has more work to do when it comes to long-term recovery. He noted that a major consideration in longer-term recovery is that efforts are not the sole responsibility of the government but also that of the private sector—
electricity, trucking and shipping, and Internet and connectivity—which often hold assets that are critical to a community’s resilience. In Salt Lake County, there is a concerted effort to convene the main players now, aiming to ensure that the dialogue and partnerships are active today, so that in the event of an emergency, relationships and plans are in place for community-wide resilience.
Seabrook asked how communities go beyond recovery to prevention; in other words, how are communities going about their pre-disaster work? County Commissioner LaMarca talked about programs that help residents create hurricane-hardened homes (e.g., houses with windows and glass that can withstand a 2×4 board traveling at 150 miles per hour), strict building codes, and back-up power for critical locations; with policies instituted over the past 10 years, back-up power is now required for places such as cell phone towers, health facilities, and gas stations on interstate highways. Mayor Seibert also cited changes in home-building rules. Joplin now requires hurricane straps on truss roofing and additional anchors joining walls to the foundation. The more stringent requirements add approximately $500 to $600 to the cost of a newly built home. He noted that they did not add a requirement for storm shelters stating, “We felt like the open
market would take care of that, and that’s exactly what happened.” The city gave the school district additional funding to rebuild the schools to a higher standard. They tried to strike a balance between preparing effectively while not imposing high costs that would lead residents to relocate to another community with fewer building requirements.
Mayor McAdams pointed to the Utah Shake-Out, an annual community-wide emergency drill,3 as an effective method to raise awareness and preparedness. People in businesses, public schools, and universities come together to discuss what an effective earthquake response looks like. He noted that the drill has raised awareness in his own home, prompting his family to engage in discussion of how to become more prepared; questions like, “if there is an emergency, where do we meet our kids? Do we have a designated meeting place? What if we’re at home, what if dad is at work and mom is out of town?” The community also increasingly focuses on questions of business continuity and contingency planning should supply chains be disrupted. Mayor McAdams believes these exercises are motivating households and businesses to develop their own plans.
Beyond built environment solutions, Seabrook asked how each community is accounting for climate change and changing weather patterns when considering the future. Mayor McAdams stated that while the risk of an earthquake is of most concern for Salt Lake County, changing climate patterns are having a distinct impact on its flooding and wildfire risk. He raised the issue of declining snowpack, which accounts for half of the county’s drinking water supply; lighter snowpack also means a higher incidence of wildfires. Even with this reduction in snowfall, the county’s incidence of flooding is going up since sudden warm temperatures melt the snowpack more rapidly than current systems can handle. With the help of FEMA, affected communities are in the process of thinking through these issues. County Commissioner LaMarca discussed the unique situation of southeast Florida, which has about 300 miles of exposed shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean and parts of the Gulf of Mexico that can be subject to a changing climate. Four coastal counties work together on a regional approach, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact,4 which coordinates mitigation and adaptation activities and provides opportunities for engaging with state and federal entities for technical and other support. They found that through advance planning, natural infrastructure, such
as plantings and sand dunes, could be used to preserve and maintain the fragile coastline; built infrastructure interventions can be much more costly.
Given each of the speaker’s experience with “radical resilience building” at the local level, Seabrook asked each to advise administrators, mayors, and civil servants where to start and what to watch. All three panelists highlighted the importance of committed leadership. Mayor Seibert said, “Identify your key positions and make sure your leaders are strong. When you’re faced with a disaster, it’s too late to realize that you have the wrong people in the wrong positions.” County Commissioner LaMarca asserted the need for public servants to serve their constituents in the face of a crisis despite philosophical or political differences, and highlighted the need for elected leaders to listen to what the community is telling them. Finally, Mayor McAdams stated that there is an opportunity for political leadership to expand the discussion beyond family and home to community awareness, and use community-wide emergency drills like the Utah Shake-Out. He emphasized the government’s ability to bring people together.
A member of the audience asked what is being done now, and what could be done better, to address emotional resilience? Mayor McAdams believes that the emergency drill does a good job of preparing people publicly for a disaster, but acknowledged that some residents could be left behind, such as lower-income people who could be displaced in an earthquake and elderly people with health concerns. In regard to Joplin’s 5-year anniversary of the tornado, Mayor Seibert said that half of the community wanted to recognize it and the other half did not. Ultimately, they planned a one-mile memorial walk with 1,000 participants. The Joplin community has tried hard to recognize residents’ challenges and emotional needs.
An audience member asked a final question about tools and mechanisms that could be used to communicate with the community. Mayor Seibert described how Joplin is unifying its communication points between county agencies and other organizations, “Everybody knows what everybody is doing now and we’re not communicating in silos like we were in the past.” He highlighted the value of smartphones and apps released by local television and radio stations for emergency alerts. For families without smartphones, Joplin used grant funding to provide 4,000 weather radios. County Commissioner LaMarca replied that Broward County communicates through religious organizations, community-oriented organizations, ethnic groups, and chambers of commerce and, in an emergency, television, public radio, and other means of electronic broadcast such as reverse 911 and Twitter.
Andrea Seabrook introduced three speakers for a final discussion about the roles and opportunities for private sector actors in increasing the nation’s resilience: Paul Nicholas, senior director of Microsoft Global Security Strategy and Diplomacy; Lynn Scarlett, global managing director of The Nature Conservancy; and Ray Bonilla, senior director of IT resiliency management at Kaiser Permanente.
Seabrook began the discussion by asking the speakers if the United States should have a chief resilience officer. Nicholas supported the idea as a way to create an overarching focus on resilience that includes comprehensive investment spanning economics, social cohesion, and environment. Bonilla also favored a national chief resilience officer, noting that though a great deal of good planning is accomplished within an organization’s own sphere of resilience, silos can inhibit an organization’s ability to meet challenges in a flexible and adaptive way. He believes there is a need for a “truly coordinated and harmonized way of responding to emergencies and being able to bounce back from anything.” Scarlett acknowledged the diversity of the challenges and risks faced by communities and, likewise, the variety of agencies with differing responsibilities and responses to these challenges. She felt that because of the diversity of needs at the local level, a single focus at the federal level would not be the ideal structure. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, she said, “some of the most fantastic and nimble responses were on the ground, by mayors and companies on site.”
In response to questions from Seabrook and the audience, the three panelists described various aspects of their companies’ work toward resilience. Nicholas noted that Microsoft has made substantial changes in its data center operations and with efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the company and its products. He discussed a cultural change at Microsoft from an individual focus to the notion of a collective challenge. At one point in the company’s history, employees were highly competitive with one another rather than focusing on the customer. In the early 2000s, security issues forced the company to change its operations—compelled it to slow down—and the resulting culture shift was toward one of greater collaboration.
Nicholas described a collaborative project among Microsoft, the 100 Resilient Cities program, and the city of Rotterdam, a diverse community of 170 languages. Rotterdam wanted to be a cyber-resilient city; the initial focus was on security. This narrow focus soon shifted to a broader discus-
sion of how to be ready and responsive in facing diverse challenges. The city realized that its ethnic and linguistic diversity provided an opportunity to become a “cyberport” to the world, fostering community networks and startups and creating places where people who were disconnected could connect.
Nicholas discussed the value of a data-driven environment for turning the “known unknowns” into “knowns.” He believes that many cities and nations as well as people working with different infrastructure and in different sectors of the economy are only beginning to understand how to utilize available data. There are still questions about how to identify where the data are, how to consume it, and how it can help anticipate problems. Nicholas advocated planting seeds with the next generation and described Microsoft’s YouthSpark program (https://www.microsoft.com/en_us/digital_skills), which aims to advance technical education in both developed and less developed countries to build local capacity for data analysis. Finally, Nicholas highlighted the need to establish relationships well before a crisis demands them. Resilience is about having a range of options and bringing together the right stakeholders to help manage a crisis.
Bonilla described Kaiser Permanente’s focus on total health. The organization seeks to maximize the health and well-being of its members and the communities it serves, an effort that easily extends to crisis situations. He connected resilience with a range of investments in communities’ health. For example, a community that is more walkable and safe with easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables increases its ability to deal with adversity. Bonilla stated, “It’s really about planning for life’s what-ifs. How do we build the muscle memory within our community so that residents are healthy and resilient and able to quickly bounce back?”
Kaiser Permanente’s own resilience activities encompass business continuity, crisis management, disaster recovery, and physical and cybersecurity. Bonilla spoke about how a fundamental element of Kaiser’s resilience is its people, “how well do our people know their role in resilience, embrace it, and own it while they’re at work and at home, and how does that radiate into a community level of preparedness and resilience?” Much of the organization’s resilience efforts focus on ensuring that all employees understand and are empowered in their roles within the organization.
Bonilla stated that Kaiser’s commitment starts with the CEO. The CEO and his colleagues customize their efforts to each division’s mission as well as to the strategic pillars and vision of the company. When they collaborate with the chief medical officer about resilience, they emphasize how to
ensure that the medical operations of the organization are always available. Similarly, when they talk with the chief information officer, the focus is on the stability of the information technology systems and the organization’s data. Bonilla noted that since “telehealth” is revolutionizing health care, it is now critical to make sure technology is always on. In conversations with the chief marketing officer, they discuss how to integrate resilience into Kaiser’s brand and reputation. Similarly, the chief human resources officer wants Kaiser Permanente to be the best place to work and to make investments in its employees’ well-being and safety.
Seabrook asked the speakers to talk about “marketing” resilience, what makes a product go viral? Bonilla replied that it was about being positive, persistent, and passionate about Kaiser Permanente’s work stating, “It’s about being happy and buoyant and adaptive to anything that life throws your way. Taking small steps today can have big payoffs in the future.”
A member of the audience asked about how companies and individuals can become more accountable, efficient, and effective, and reduce their environmental footprint. Bonilla suggested appealing to emotions by finding ways to get people excited about making changes that will provide for a better future. When he began working on resilience 10 years ago, the focus was on preparedness, planning, and emergency management. People were overwhelmed and fearful and believed that resilience was too complicated. Bonilla realized it was important to make the topic of resilience more than about planning for the next earthquake but to also talk about being prepared to bounce back individually, locally, regionally, and nationally.
Scarlett described the shift at The Nature Conservancy from conservation to resilience, prompted by the organization’s work responding to the effects of the changing climate, such as increased frequency of high-intensity storms and catastrophic wildfires. She described how nature itself is part of the solution. For example, restoring oyster reefs can reduce storm surge, which can reduce the risk of catastrophic storms as well as provide multiple other benefits including enhanced fisheries, aesthetic benefits, and other related economic benefits. Scarlett advocated a forward-looking approach. For example, improving the health of a forest not only reduces the risk of wildfire but also helps to secure a community’s water supply since wildfires create sedimentation. The Nature Conservancy approaches resilience from a number of levels including using scientific findings to understand solutions, providing examples of on-the-ground strategies, and brokering dialogue. Scarlett emphasized that it is crucial to listen to what the community is saying and understand the risks that are of most concern. One challenge is con-
vincing communities to adopt ecosystem approaches to protect themselves. A community that has recently experienced a disaster may want to see rapid improvement to their risk, for example, by building a sea wall to protect against storm surge. The Nature Conservancy tries to demonstrate ways to integrate natural solutions with other risk-reducing actions and emphasize the multiple benefits that can result with nature-based strategies.
Regarding “known unknowns,” Scarlett urged a focus on solution sets that can function across a wide range of conditions. For example, floodplain restoration makes a community more resilient to a wider-range of water conditions than a levy built to a particular water height. Scarlett also emphasized the importance of convening decision makers and organizations; it is valuable to provide opportunities for dialogue on a regular basis.
An audience member brought up international activities, which acknowledge the value of forests in capturing atmospheric carbon, watersheds for maintaining the water supply, and wetlands for dissipating storm surges, and asked why these strategies have not gained traction in the United States. Scarlett replied that this is a work in progress. The Nature Conservancy is helping to lead the way with 30 water funds for investment in watershed protection around the world and more than 20 coastal resilience projects in the United States alone. She added that there is an “exponential appetite growing for these kinds of solutions” and her organization is working with other institutions, such as the World Bank, to identify ways to increase investments in them.
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Thomas P. Bostick of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) concluded the leadership forum by talking about his experiences building resilience through the USACE. He emphasized the Corps’ broad experience with extreme events and wars over its 241 years of existence, most recently with droughts, Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, floods on the Mississippi River in Missouri and West Virginia, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Bostick discussed specific examples of USACE resilience work. Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the U.S. Congress asked the USACE to look ahead 50 years and lead an assessment of the needs for resilience in the face of climate change. The result was the North Atlantic Coast
Comprehensive Study released in January 2015.5 Currently, the USACE is working with many partners and taking action on nine of the study’s focus areas. General Bostick also referred to work he did as part of the Coastal Engineering Research Board, in which participating organizations convened to work together on a shared meaning of resilience. For the USACE, this resulted in a resilience initiative that examined how it would approach resilience in the future in terms of infrastructure, communities, and across federal agencies.
General Bostick stated that the implementation of resilience activities depends on funding and resources. However, he also acknowledged that resilience is working its way into policy, and noted President Obama’s 2015 Executive Order that addressed the federal flood risk management standard, “It is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities . . . against the impacts of flooding.”6
General Bostick closed by urging participants to plan for uncertainty, plan for failure, and plan for flexibility in the system. He cited work on the Mississippi floodplain that was begun in the aftermath of a flood that killed nearly 1,000 people. At the time, General Edgar Jadwin recognized that the Mississippi River could not be contained solely by the use of levees, no matter how robust, but that it needed to be allowed to spread out through a number of controlled features. That strategy—currently 89 percent complete—has resulted in dramatically fewer fatalities and damages due to flooding along the river. For example, in 2011, Mississippi floods cost $2.8 billion; without the decades of USACE work, the damages would have been an estimated $234 billion. General Bostick noted how the nation benefits from this work begun in 1927 and challenged participants to “think about what we need to do today, so that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will look back on this generation and say, ‘They did something really good for us. We’re safer and our people are safer and our communities are more resilient because of their hard work.’” Finally, he noted the importance of strong leadership—from the local level to U.S. Congress—to get behind the concept of resilience.
6 Executive Order – Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/30/executive-order-establishing-federal-flood-risk-management-standard-and-).
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