A National Research Council (NRC) report  released today warns that the United States is underfunding its program intended to increase the country's resistance to the next catastrophic earthquake. The devastation wreaked by the quake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March, the NRC's Committee on National Earthquake Resilience noted, should remind Americans that even the best-prepared nations can be vulnerable.
The NRC committee endorses the 2008 strategic plan of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), a multiagency effort led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The committee provides a 20-year road map for implementing that plan that includes 18 tasks. They range from improving earthquake forecasting and developing early-warning systems to understanding how to increase the resistance of existing buildings to damage and how to preserve electricity and water infrastructure.
Greater resilience would come with a cost, the committee notes. In 2009, total funding for NEHRP came to $129.7 million. But its road map would cost more than twice that—$306 million annually-over the first five of the 20 years.