Statement of David Applegate
Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards
U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior
before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space
June 24, 2004
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss H.R. 2608, a bill which reauthorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), as well as the role of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in this critically important partnership.
Let me state at the outset that the Department of the Interior (Department) strongly supports the reauthorization of NEHRP through H.R. 2608. The NEHRP has generated considerable benefit to the nation for over twenty-five years. Through NEHRP, the United States has made substantial progress in earthquake awareness, preparedness, and safety. Immense efforts have gone into planning earthquake emergency response, retrofitting existing structures, and ensuring that new structures are built to withstand expected shaking levels. USGS has contributed to these efforts through its hazard assessment, monitoring, and research efforts, and we are poised to build on these accomplishments, helping to protect lives and property in future earthquakes that will strike the United States.
Earthquakes are the most costly, single-event natural hazard faced by the United States. The work supported by the four NEHRP agencies -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF), and USGS -- has yielded major advances in earthquake preparedness and monitoring, as well as a vastly improved understanding of earthquake hazards, effects, and processes. Within the overall NEHRP mandate, the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program is specifically tasked with providing earthquake monitoring and notifications, assessing seismic hazards, and conducting research needed to reduce the risk from earthquake hazards nationwide.
Since the last reauthorization of NEHRP, a great deal has changed in the world. The Nation's attention is focused on preventing the unnatural hazard of terrorism, and FEMA is no longer an independent agency but part of the Department of Homeland Security. Yet even as we seek to counter new threats, we must continue to address the Nation's continued vulnerability to natural disasters.
To underscore this point, we can turn to one of the Nation's most critical pieces of infrastructure, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Thirty years ago, as the pipeline route was being designed, geoscientists worked to address the hazard posed where the pipeline crossed active faults. Based on geologic evidence of past earthquakes, engineers designed a system of teflon-coated slider bars over a zone where the pipeline crossed the Denali fault in central Alaska. On November 3, 2002, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake on the Denali fault produced 20 feet of displacement directly across the pipeline. The engineered system allowed the pipeline to accommodate the motion and the pipeline did not break. An environmental disaster was averted and a threat to our energy security was avoided.
A great deal of critical infrastructure is located in seismically active areas of the Nation, as well as in homes, schools, hospitals and other important structures that make up the built environment. These seismically active areas affect 150 million people in 39 states. NEHRP remains a potent vehicle for ensuring that we continue to work to improve the overall resilience of the Nation.
USGS NEHRP Activities
Within NEHRP, USGS provides fundamental earth science information, hazard analyses, and research that form the foundation for cost-effective earthquake risk reduction measures.
In fiscal year (FY) 2004, USGS received $47.4 million to support NEHRP work. The three major USGS activities within NEHRP are:
The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program activities are focused on the Nation, as a whole, and on five broad geographical regions, addressing particular regional needs and problems in areas where the earthquake risk is greatest. These regions are Southern California, Northern California, the Pacific Northwest (including Alaska), the Intermountain West, and the central and eastern United States (including Puerto Rico).
Approximately one-fourth of USGS NEHRP dollars fund activities, investigations, and research outside USGS. Each year about 115 research grants are supported at universities and in state governments and the private sector. USGS also supports 16 cooperative agreements to support the operation of 14 regional seismic networks maintained by universities. In a cooperative effort with NSF, USGS provides support to the Southern California Earthquake Center, a leading effort in earthquake research by a consortium of universities led by the University of Southern California. By involving our non-federal partners through targeted research grants and cooperative agreements, USGS increases its geographical and institutional impact, promotes earthquake awareness across the Nation, encourages the application of new hazards assessment techniques by state and local governments and the private sector, and increases the level of technical knowledge within state and local government agencies. This external support often leverages funding from other sources, extending the program's reach and providing expertise and flexibility to augment internal capabilities.
National and Urban Earthquake Hazard Assessments
USGS carries out quantitative earthquake hazard assessments on national and regional scales. The national seismic hazard assessments are USGS's flagship product under NEHRP, and form the scientific basis of seismic provisions in building codes enacted throughout the United States. These assessments integrate results of geologic mapping, field studies of fault locations and slip rates, analyses of seismicity patterns and rates, and crustal deformation measurements. Hazard maps based on these assessments are prepared in digital format and estimate the severity of expected ground shaking at some 150,000 points nationwide. The maps and their associated databases are also used to predict earthquake losses and to define insurance risks and premiums. Periodic review and revision of these maps, as new data become available, are a high program priority. The latest revision of these maps was completed in 2002, and we have already begun the work for new, improved maps by 2008.
Ten years ago these hazard maps were based on four broad, qualitative zones that were used to describe the earthquake hazard nationwide. This depiction and classification of the nation's earthquake hazard was inadequate. The 1996 national seismic hazard maps are included in design maps in the NEHRP Recommended Provisions, published by the Building Seismic Safety Council and FEMA. In turn, these provisions are used in the 2000 International Building Code (IBC), which merges the three major national model codes. The IBC and the International Residential Code have been adopted by jurisdictions in 37 states. Thus, this NEHRP product, the set of national seismic hazard maps, is used to make billions of dollars of new construction each year safer from earthquakes.
The national seismic hazard maps are also used in the FEMA retrofit guidelines, ensuring that older buildings are strengthened so that they withstand future earthquakes. These maps and associated products are also used in the design of highway bridges, landfills under EPA regulation, and dams, as well as for setting earthquake insurance premiums and the cost of re-insurance. For example, the California Earthquake Authority uses the seismic hazard maps to set earthquake premiums for the state earthquake insurance program. Presidential executive orders specify that new and leased federal buildings must adhere to the NEHRP Recommended Provisions.
For urban areas with high to moderate seismic risk, USGS works with partners to generate more detailed hazard maps that take into account variations in the amplitude and duration of seismic shaking caused by local geologic structures and soil conditions. USGS works in areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Memphis, and St. Louis to produce maps and databases that show the variations in ground shaking patterns that can be expected from local conditions.
The Advanced National Seismic System: Earthquake Monitoring and Notification
USGS is the only federal agency responsible for the routine monitoring and notification of earthquake occurrences. USGS's monitoring activities are being integrated into the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), an effort that was authorized in the last NEHRP reauthorization in 2000 in order to modernize and expand earthquake monitoring and notification nationwide. USGS operates the ANSS Backbone (formerly U.S. National Seismograph Network), the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), and the National Strong Motion Program, and supports 14 regional networks in areas of moderate to high seismic activity. Rapid and reliable information on the location, magnitude, and effects of an earthquake is needed to guide emergency response, save lives, reduce economic losses, and speed recovery. Additionally, the seismic data from routine network operations are essential to define and improve the models of earthquake occurrence, fault activity, and earth structure. Today, digital data flow from hundreds of seismometers over dedicated communication links to regional and national data centers. At these centers, computers use complex analysis programs to process the data, automatically and instantaneously generating epicenters and magnitudes and then broadcasting the results within seconds.
Significant progress has been made in the development of the ANSS. A management structure is in place that includes regional implementation and advisory groups with national level oversight and coordination. By the end of 2004, USGS and its regional partners will have installed nearly 500 new seismic sensors in urban areas of the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Reno, Anchorage, and Memphis.
ANSS capitalizes on the revolution in information technology to achieve dramatic advances in real-time seismic data analysis and rapid earthquake notification. Data from earthquake sensors in urban areas can be used to produce, within a few minutes of earthquake occurrence, a map showing the actual severity and distribution of strong ground shaking caused by an earthquake. Emergency management officials and others use these "ShakeMaps" to direct emergency response to the earthquake. Data can be imported into FEMA's HAZUS software to provide a rapid estimation of losses, providing critical information in the first hours after an event, a process that used to take days. Some form of sensor-based ShakeMap capability now exists for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage, and Salt Lake City. With additional support, this capability can be deployed in all large urban areas with high seismic risk. The success of ShakeMap depends on adequate ANSS instrumentation and effective USGS partnerships with the user community.
Complementing ShakeMap is a suite of near-real-time earthquake products, including earthquake paging and e-mail services, earthquake location maps, automatic Web pages for significant events, and aftershock probability estimators. Recently we established a web-based interface to provide Internet users with a means of recording individual earthquakes experiences and compiling these into summary maps of shaking intensity ("Did-You-Feel-It?"), and nearly 500,000 responses have been received to date. The Earthquake Hazards Program's Web site is among the most popular federal government sites, receiving tens of thousands of hits per day. These products provide rapid, reliable, and comprehensive information about earthquakes in the United States and worldwide.
ANSS sensors in urban areas also provide the data necessary to improve earthquake resistant building design and construction practices. These instruments will provide quantitative data on how the ground actually shook during an earthquake. The data will inform engineering studies to improve site characterization and infrastructure performance.
Better Understanding of Earthquake Processes and Effects
With the goal of improving hazard assessments, earthquake forecasts and earthquake monitoring products, USGS conducts and supports targeted research on earthquake processes and effects. This is an effort to increase our understanding of the plate-tectonic processes that lead to earthquakes, the physics of earthquake initiation and growth, the propagation of strong shaking through the Earth's crustal and surficial layers, and the triggering of landslides, rock falls, and other ground failures by seismic shaking. This research is based on theoretical, laboratory, and field studies and addresses many of the fundamental problems of earthquake occurrence and consequences. Practical outcomes of such research include improvements in the precision and reliability of seismic hazard assessments, reducing their uncertainty and leading to the development of tools for more effective, precise and fiscally prudent mitigation. Another practical outcome is improvement in our ability to predict the location, size and impact of future large earthquakes in the United States.
Progress in earthquake hazard assessments during the past 25 years is rooted in pioneering USGS field, laboratory, and theoretical research focused on understanding the basic physical processes of earthquakes.
Working with User Communities
USGS believes that all of its work under NEHRP must relate to reducing public risk from earthquake hazards. We make strong efforts to engage those communities of users of our information, assessment products, and research.
In 2002, under the authority of P.L. 106-503, the Fire Administration Authorization Act of 2000, USGS established a Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee (SESAC) to advise USGS on its roles, goals, and objectives within NEHRP, to review its capabilities and research needs, and to provide guidance on achieving major objectives and performance goals. SESAC members have backgrounds in geology, seismology, and engineering and represent academia, state governments, and the private sector. The SESAC has met six times during the past two years and has provided three reports to this Committee on its findings, submitting its most recent report in December, 2003.
The development of the national seismic hazard maps involves an exhaustive process in which we engage seismologists, geologists, and engineers on the regional and national levels. Regional workshops are held at which new data and studies on earthquake hazards are presented and discussed. The changes that will result in incorporating the new results into revised maps are also presented and discussed. Every effort is made to reach a consensus on the validity of the new results and on the resulting changes in the hazard maps. At the national level, we work with FEMA, the National Institute of Building Safety, the Building Seismic Safety Council, the Building Officials Conference of America, and the American Society of Civil Engineers to ensure that the maps are of maximum practical use to the engineering and construction communities.
Our work on regional hazard assessments in northern and southern California, Seattle, and Memphis is carried out in participation and collaboration with regional and local governments and local interest groups. These groups provide essential input on what information is needed and the form in which it is needed to be of greatest practical use. Within the ANSS management structure, there are six regional advisory committees and a national steering committee. These committees are made up of engineers, seismologists, and emergency management officials. The regional advisory committees ensure that the implementation of ANSS meets regional requirements, while the national committee ensures that the program is developed as an integrated system with national operating standards and equipment specifications.
USGS maintains close ties with professional groups, like the Seismological Society of America and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and works closely with and support regional consortia such as the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, the Western States Seismic Policy Council, and the Cascadia Region Earthquake Working Group, as well as various state geological surveys and seismic safety commissions.
In addition to working with our federal NEHRP colleagues, we have strong ties to the Tsunami Warning Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Reclamation, and various elements of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Transportation.
USGS has worked with the Red Cross and other agencies to prepare Sunday newspaper inserts on earthquake awareness for San Francisco and Anchorage. A USGS employee wrote the pamphlet "Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country," published and distributed throughout southern California by FEMA, the State of California, the Red Cross, and the Southern California Earthquake Center. The California Earthquake Authority sponsored the printing and distribution of a large number of copies for their customers.
Acting Globally: International Earthquake Information and Research
The same analysis systems and facilities that process data for domestic earthquakes also use data from the Global Seismograph Network (GSN) to monitor foreign earthquakes. Notifications of large foreign earthquakes are provided to the Department of State, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Red Cross, and the news media. In the case of major earthquakes around the globe, USGS is developing the capability to provide these entities with not only the location but also a map of probable ground-shaking intensity and an estimate of the population possibly exposed to dangerous levels of ground shaking, helping provide an early estimate of the societal impact of a major earthquake even before reports start to filter in.
Since the beginning of NEHRP, USGS has had formal, active scientific exchange programs with Russia, Japan, and the Peoples Republic of China. In prior years, before development of the Internet and the end of the Cold War, these exchanges were rather stiff and prescribed with formal annual meetings at which details of joint research projects were negotiated. The annual meetings continue, but are now strengthened by a continual flow of information and ideas between participants on all sides through electronic mail and personal visits. USGS also has scientific exchange programs with institutes in France, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, and Canada.
After large, foreign earthquakes, if lessons can be learned for application in the United States, or when assistance is requested, USGS sends teams of scientists to carry out post-earthquake investigations. During the past 25 years, USGS has sent teams to investigate earthquakes in dozens of countries. Most of these investigations have led to scientific reports that are provided to the host country and many have led to extensive collaborative work between USGS and foreign scientists.
Improving NEHRP Through H.R. 2608
As noted at the beginning of my statement, we support reauthorization of the NEHRP through H.R. 2608, but offer the following comments.
USGS believes that, while coordination among NEHRP agencies is good, it can be improved. There is close coordination on a programmatic level between USGS and NSF in the planning and deployment of NSF's EarthScope initiative. The two agencies coordinate research support for the Southern California Earthquake Center. USGS scientists and engineers are also involved in NSF's NEES initiative, and USGS engineers sit on NIST panels addressing building safety. ShakeMap data provide a key input to FEMA's HAZUS loss estimation software and work continues to strengthen the linkages between these two powerful tools. This past year, the four agencies worked together to develop the NEHRP Plan to Coordinate Post-earthquake Investigations, which dictates and coordinates the steps to be taken by each NEHRP agency in the aftermath of a destructive earthquake. It also spells out the role of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in conducting post-earthquake geotechnical and structural engineering investigations.
Moreover, stronger direction to the overall NEHRP program would be constructive. We welcome Congress's attention to how best to achieve more focused leadership to the program. For example, because of provisions in the previous reauthorization, we now benefit from the advice and guidance of the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee. USGS supports the establishment, in H.R. 2608, of a similar advisory body for the entire NEHRP effort, as we believe it would provide the stimulus and guidance to ensure greater coordination, cooperation, and planning. We also believe that provisions to ensure close coordination between SESAC and the new NEHRP-wide advisory committee would be beneficial.
NEHRP Challenges and USGS Plans
Although much has been accomplished under NEHRP, much remains to be done to ensure safety and reduce economic losses in future earthquakes. The country's population and economy continue to grow in earthquake prone areas. Exposure to earthquake risk continues to increase. Emergency officials, lifeline managers, the news media, and the public expect immediate, reliable, and complete information on the location, magnitude, impact, and effects of any and all earthquakes.
Earthquake hazard information used in model building codes is applied for public safety only; that is to keep the structure from collapsing. The building may be a total loss, but the inhabitants are expected to be safe. Financial and engineering interests are now pursuing the more sophisticated, and more complicated, concept of performance-based design. Under this concept, the structure is designed and constructed so that it will meet a desired performance level during and after an earthquake. For example, the owners and occupants of a structure housing a national corporate headquarters may want it designed so that it will be completely functional immediately after a strong earthquake. Performance-based design concepts require more extensive and complete data on the nature and variation of ground shaking and building response to earthquakes.
Going forward, USGS will continue to build on existing earthquake monitoring, assessment, and research activities with the ultimate goal of providing the Nation with earthquake products that promote earthquake mitigation and facilitate earthquake response. At the heart of this effort will be a continued emphasis on delivering information that is useful, accessible, and easily understood. By working closely with policymakers and emergency planners, USGS will ensure that they have the most reliable and accurate information possible about earthquake hazards and that our products are tailored to their needs. USGS will participate in local and national earthquake mitigation planning exercises and help train emergency responders, contingency planners, risk managers, the media, and others in how to use earthquake hazard assessments and real-time information products. We will also continue to work directly with communities to help them understand their vulnerabilities and to plan mitigation actions. Critical decisions for earthquake preparedness and response, including continued corporate and government operations, are often made far from areas of high seismic hazard. So that informed and appropriate actions can be taken, we will continue to work to ensure that earthquake hazard information and products are useful and familiar to decision makers even in regions of low seismic hazard.
Advanced National Seismic System. The ANSS initiative is intended to contribute to reducing loss of life and property in earthquakes through monitoring actual ground shaking levels in urban areas and the dynamic performance of structures and lifelines (ie. electric grids) in earthquakes. ANSS will collect this information through a nationwide network of sophisticated shaking monitors, placed both on the ground and in buildings in urban areas in seismically active regions. One important component of ANSS is the instrumentation of buildings. If hundreds of buildings in high-risk areas are instrumented with seismometers, engineers can determine how specific types of buildings respond to earthquake shaking. To date, three buildings have been instrumented under the ANSS initiative. Currently, the spacing of ground seismometers is not sufficient to correlate the ground shaking to the performance of specific buildings. Although model building codes set earthquake-resistant standards for broad, general classes of structures (i.e. wood frame, residential) on a generic soil type, these instruments will provide data about how more complicated buildings (i.e. steel-moment frame and non-ductile concrete frame) buildings perform during earthquakes and how to design buildings that will perform better during violent shaking.
A key goal of ANSS is improved reliability, timeliness, and breadth of USGS near-real-time earthquake products for emergency response purposes in 26 urban areas with the highest seismic risk. ShakeMap, in particular, requires data input from a modern seismic network with digital strong motion recording capabilities and real-time telecommunications feeds. Few urban areas possess this type of modern technology. For this reason, ShakeMap is currently only available in a handful of cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage, and Salt Lake City). Future deployment of sensors will be critical to delivering information to emergency managers when and where they need it. The expansion of these capabilities is a high priority for ANSS and for NEHRP as a whole. It is important to note that the instruments and automatic analysis systems being deployed and developed within the ANSS effort can detect, locate, and determine the severity of large, non-natural events that generate seismic energy, such as explosions and impacts.
Earthquake warnings. As the ANSS system develops, it will be technically possible, under some conditions, to issue warnings within a few tens of seconds of the initiation of strong ground shaking. The seismic waves that carry strong shaking travel at about 2 miles-per-second. If an earthquake occurs 100 miles outside of an urban area, data from ANSS sensors near the epicenter can immediately be transmitted over robust communication links to a data analysis center. Here the data can be analyzed automatically, within a few seconds, to determine that a strong earthquake has occurred. A warning could then be issued via radio to the urban area that strong earthquake shaking is imminent. The warning would give school children time to get under their desks, surgeons time to safely pause their procedures, and provide time to suspend the pumping of toxic materials and other hazardous activities. USGS is taking the lead in demonstrating this capability; however its implementation must be done in cooperation with local and regional governments.
Integrating essential data for expanded urban hazard assessments. Most current USGS earthquake hazard assessments are compiled on regional or national scales. These estimates typically are limited to calculating hazards on hard rock conditions as opposed to the actual soil conditions beneath cities and lifelines. At scales needed for urban planning and development, assessments need to account for the amplifying effects of soils and the potential for ground failures, such as liquefaction and landslides. USGS pilot urban assessments in Oakland, Seattle, and Memphis have shown the usefulness of detailed urban assessments. Central to this effort will be the integration of data on local geology, site conditions, and ground motions needed to produce detailed urban hazard maps. These data integration efforts will require partnerships with state geological surveys and local agencies. As these hazard assessments evolve, they will allow estimates of potential earthquake losses to building stocks and critical lifelines. This is one of the keys to developing cost effective mitigation strategies to reduce future earthquake losses. In the coming year, the urban hazard assessment for Memphis is coming to completion as new projects get underway in St. Louis and in Evansville, Indiana (with adjoining areas of Kentucky).
In addition to not taking into account variations in local geology, the national scale assessments do not consider the time dependence of earthquake occurrence. For example, if a large, magnitude 8 earthquake occurs on the northern San Andreas Fault in California tomorrow, it is unlikely that an earthquake of similar magnitude will occur on the same fault a year from now, simply because a large portion of the built-up strain in that region of the Earth's crust will have been relieved. Studies of regional strain result in forecasts of the probabilities of future earthquakes on individual active faults and across the region as a whole. USGS has published an exhaustive study of the earthquake probabilities in the San Francisco Bay region, which estimates a 62 percent chance of an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater in the region before 2031. A similar effort is underway for the Los Angeles region and represents an important step in developing the next generation of seismic hazard forecasting.
Understanding earthquake hazards in the Eastern United States. The USGS earthquake hazards program devotes approximately 75 percent of its resources to work in the Western United States, primarily because the hazard there is greater. However, history demonstrates that a catastrophic quake could also strike a major city in the Eastern United States. Four damaging earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7, centered in the New Madrid, Missouri, area struck the Mississippi Valley in 1811-1812. Charleston, South Carolina, was devastated by a magnitude 6.7 shock in 1886, and a magnitude 6.0 quake struck the Boston area in 1755.
USGS and FEMA studies show that urban areas in the Eastern United States will incur far greater damage and far more deaths in a quake of a given magnitude than those in the West for several reasons, including because of differences in regional geology, shaking affects a much larger area for the same magnitude earthquake, most structures are not designed to resist earthquakes, and population density is high and residents are not routinely educated about seismic safety. USGS is developing methods and understanding that could improve our understanding of the earthquake hazard in the East, where the causative earthquake faults are rarely exposed at the surface and the subsurface conditions beneath major cities are poorly documented. More thorough and accurate assessment of the seismic risk faced by major urban centers in the East will reveal the greatest vulnerabilities and serve as key input to evaluate possible mitigation strategies.
Earthquake hazards in Alaska. Alaska has the greatest exposure to earthquake hazards of any state. Because of the relatively small urban population, many assume the risk is low compared to the rest of the country. However, the impact of a devastating earthquake in Alaska can extend far beyond its borders, both by generating deadly tsunamis and through economic consequences. Alaska is a major source of natural resources for the rest of the Nation, a major transportation and commercial node of the Pacific Rim, and of significant importance to national defense.
Capitalizing on new national seismic research facilities. As described in the 2003 National Research Council report, Living on an Active Earth: Perspectives on Earthquake Science, continued progress toward evaluating earthquake hazards will increasingly require integrative research involving theoretical studies of processes controlling earthquake phenomena, sophisticated numerical modeling, in situ, ground-based, and space-based field observations, and laboratory simulations. Data collection and monitoring facilities developed during the first 25 years of NEHRP are aging and becoming obsolete. Recent and proposed government investments in a number of major earth science and engineering facilities offer, for the first time, the breadth and depth of data required to truly address the physical nature of earthquakes.
USGS will take advantage of these new data streams to perform earthquake hazard focused experiments on scales never before possible. To improve long-term hazard assessments, USGS will also create region-specific earthquake occurrence models that simulate the multiple factors operating in active fault systems. A major goal will be to understand the criteria for the occurrence of earthquakes within a fault system and the impact of one quake on the system through the many processes that transfer stresses. To determine if earthquakes are predictable, USGS will build physics-based computer models of earthquake likelihood, akin to models used for weather forecasting.
Earthquake prediction. Reliable prediction of the time, place, and magnitude of future large earthquakes is the "holy grail" of earthquake science. USGS understands that earthquake prediction is not possible without a foundation based on a much more complete understanding of earthquake physics and processes. During the past decade, we have seen considerable progress in the understanding of earthquake processes. This progress in understanding could contribute to advancing reliable earthquake prediction. But, in order to do so, it would be necessary to review the current state of knowledge, identify the scientific problems that should be addressed, and develop a strategy to address these issues.
The Stafford Act tasks the USGS Director with responsibility for issuing warnings for earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. In light of that responsibility and the growing interest in short-term earthquake prediction, the 2003 SESAC report calls on USGS to take on an aggressive role in evaluating and validating proposed prediction tools so the public understands the true risks associated with a given seismic area. SESAC has also recommended that USGS re-establish the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council "to serve as a forum to review predictions and resolve scientific debate prior to public controversy or misrepresentation." On the basis of this recommendation, USGS is in the process of re-chartering the Council.
After 25 years of NEHRP, USGS has become a world scientific leader in seismic hazard studies. In implementing the results of these studies to mitigate the effects of earthquakes, USGS has actively collaborated with state geologic surveys, emergency response officials, earthquake engineers, local government, and the public. This has resulted in dramatic improvement in building safety and earthquake response in the United States.
However, there is still much to be done. By integrating USGS earthquake information with data from new national initiatives, such as ANSS, we will be able to develop a new generation of effective and efficient earthquake hazard assessment and mitigation tools. These tools will be used to further reduce loss of life and property in future earthquakes that will strike seismically hazardous regions.
With this in mind, we support reauthorization of the NEHRP, through H.R. 2608, however, the funding levels authorized in the bill are not consistent with the President's FY 2005 budget request, and must be compete with existing priorities.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, we look forward to making additional progress in this important field and for the opportunity to submit this statement. I would be happy to answer any questions or provide additional information.