ASCE Seeks Reauthorization of Earthquake and Wind Research Programs


ASCE’s efforts to spur Congressional action to reauthorize two federal programs that are critical to the nation’s resilience has finally achieved some results. Both the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP) are past due for reauthorization and Congress has been slow to act. Efforts by ASCE and other supporters of the programs have been met not by opposition, but by competing legislative priorities and delays caused by unrelated issues.

Recent action has indicated reauthorization is a real possibility this year. First to act was the Senate, as Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation (S. 3606) to reauthorize NEHRP in mid-January. This was closely followed by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology’s hearing on reauthorization of both programs January 30th. ASCE endorsed the Senate bill and submitted comments for the hearing and will continue to work with and push both chambers to compete reauthorizations.

The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure recommends advancements in resilience across all infrastructure categories as one of the three key solutions for raising the nation’s infrastructure grades. Both programs support resilience by funding and coordinating research to better understand the impact of earthquakes and wind hazards and to mitigate those impacts. This knowledge goes beyond the core mission of the two programs and has the potential to increase resilience against many hazards, both natural and human induced. Research results from these programs are widely shared and inform the development of standards, such as ASCE-7 Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures (ASCE/SEI 7-22), and other accepted consensus-based standards.


 NEHRP was created by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, which recognized the threat earthquakes pose and the enormous costs associated with them. NEHRP has provided the resources and leadership that have led to significant advances in understanding the risk earthquakes pose and the best ways to mitigate them. Through NEHRP, the federal government has engaged in seismic monitoring, mapping, research, testing, and engineering. This work supports code development and advances mitigation techniques and emergency preparedness. Although NEHRP is well known for its research programs, it is also the source of hundreds of innovative technologies, maps, design techniques, and standards that are used by design professionals every day to mitigate hazards and risks. NEHRP is a cost-effective and well-run program that has successfully reduced the risk of earthquakes through the cohesive efforts of four federal agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

ASCE has been actively involved with NEHRP since its creation. ASCE members regularly serve on the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR) and work directly for the member agencies. Other ASCE members are engaged in grant-based research. Additionally, ASCE frequently champions the program on Capitol Hill. ASCE was instrumental in the 2004 reorganization of the program, as well as the most recent reauthorization in 2018. ASCE subject experts were also consulted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on their report entitled Earthquakes: Opportunities Exist to Further Assess Risk, Build Resilience, and Communicate Research.


ASCE was instrumental in the creation of NWIRP, which was enacted in 2004 by Public Law 108-360 with the hope of emulating the success of NEHRP. Windstorms are among the most devastating natural hazards. Each year, the United States suffers tremendous losses as a result of windstorms. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and other windstorms cause death and injury, business interruption, and property damage in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. As urban growth continues, and people move to coastal areas, the trend towards larger impacts and increasing costs will continue unless an effective wind hazard reduction plan is funded and implemented.

NWIRP was modeled after the larger and older NEHRP and conducts many of the same types of activities. The program is designed to coordinate federal efforts to mitigate the impact of severe winds and enhance cooperation among federal agencies, including NIST, NSF, FEMA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Its goal, as stated by Congress, is to achieve major measurable reductions in the losses of life and property from windstorms through a coordinated federal effort, in cooperation with other levels of government, academia, and the private sector. The aim is improving scientific understanding of windstorms and their impacts and developing and encouraging the implementation of cost-effective mitigation measures to reduce those impacts.

While the member agencies of NWIRP and other partners have worked diligently to carry out their mandate, lack of dedicated funding from Congress has not permitted the program to achieve its full potential. This challenge, coupled with the failure of Congress to reauthorize the program in a timely manner, represents years of missed opportunities and delays in reaching the full potential of the program.


Resilience is the ability to plan, prepare for, mitigate, and adapt to changing conditions to enable the recovery of physical, social, economic, and ecological infrastructure. Both NEHRP and NWIRP have made significant contributions to advances in the resilience of the nation’s infrastructure and ASCE is committed to working to ensure these contributions continue into the future.

ASCE’s Pathways to Resilient Communities provides roadmap to the available technical tools and resources is designed for community leaders looking to improve their built environment’s ability to respond to increasingly severe storms and other threats to vertical and horizontal infrastructure. The highlighted codes, standards, and manuals of practice we developed by ASCE members, other stakeholders, and, in many cases, the output of NEHRP and NWIRP.

Prev Story: KY Gov. Andy Beshear Celebrates Mountain Parkway Expansion at Engineering & Public Works Roadshow Event Next Story: ASCE Report Highlights Best Practices for Equity in Infrastructure