FEMA's Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program: Overview and Issues
FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program:
Overview and Issues
Updated August 8, 2008
Francis X. McCarthy
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy
Government and Finance Division
FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program:
Overview and Issues
Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM), as federal law and a program activity, began in
to test the concept of investing prior to disasters to reduce the vulnerability of
communities to future disasters. P.L. 106-390, the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000,
authorized the PDM program in law as Section 203 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster
Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
From its beginnings as “Project Impact” to its current state, the PDM program
has grown in its level of appropriated resources and the scope of participation
nationwide. Along with that growth have come issues for Congressional
consideration, including the approach for awarding grant funds, the eligibility of
certain applicants, the eligibility of certain projects, the degree of commitment by
state and local governments, and related questions.
Authorization for the PDM program expires on September 30, 2008. In the
to re-authorize the program for an additional three years and to remove the sunset
provision. The Administration has endorsed a five year re-authorization of the PDM
program without addressing the sunset provision. H.R. 6109 includes provisions that
have been part of appropriations statutes that award funds both through a formula
(with a minimum amount available per state) as well as a competitive process for the
majority of the funds. H.R. 6109 became a part of H.R. 6658, the Response,
Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2008. H.R. 6658 was approved by
the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on July 31, 2008. A Senate
bill to reauthorize PDM, S. 3175, has been included in a larger bill titled, Advancing
America’s Priorities Act, S. 3297. That bill has not passed the Senate as of the date
of this report.
In another major development in FY2008, Congress directed 95 grants to 28
states, which totaled close to 44% of all PDM funds (P.L. 110-161, Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2008). These were the first such earmarks for the PDM
program. While some of the projects meet PDM eligibility standards, others appear
to consist of preparedness projects, rather than mitigation projects, which are not
eligible for grants, as defined by PDM guidance.
This report will be updated as warranted by events.
Overview of Pre-Disaster Mitigation...................................1
Context and Trends............................................1
PDM Legislative History............................................3
Post-Katrina Mitigation Funding and the Mitigation Studies................7
Post-Katrina Funding — Competitive and Formula Grants.............9
Grant Numbers and Categories..................................10
Issues for Congressional Consideration................................10
The Pace and Breadth of PDM Funding Distribution.................10
Terrorism and Pre-Disaster Mitigation............................13
Projects and Plans............................................14
Resources vs. Requests........................................15
Length of Authorization........................................16
Methods of Awarding PDM Funds...............................17
Direct Application for PDM Grants by Eligible Non-Profits...........19
Upgraded Codes and Zoning....................................20
Multiple Mitigation Programs...................................22
List of Tables
Table 1. History of Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Appropriations,
FY1997 to FY2008............................................5
Table 2. Recent Distribution of PDM Funds, FY2006 to FY2008...........11
Table 3. Planning Grants and Project Grants...........................15
FEMA’S Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program:
Overview and Issues
Overview of Pre-Disaster Mitigation
The purpose of the pre-disaster hazard mitigation pilot program, known as
“Project Impact,” as well as the successor Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program,
is to implement hazard reduction measures prior to a disaster event. Those measures
are similar to those actions taken following a disaster under the authority of the
Section 404 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).1 The range of eligible
projects might include retrofitting public buildings against hurricane-force winds or
seismic damage, acquiring and relocating properties out of the flood plain, elevating
structures in the flood plain, flood-proofing public buildings, vegetation management
to mitigate against wildfires, or constructing or converting public spaces into “safe
rooms” in tornado-prone areas.
While there would appear to be general agreement among analysts and
practitioners on successful mitigation measures, there is also continuing debate on
where the line is drawn between preparedness for response to the next disaster and
mitigation measures to lessen its impact. A common distinction frequently drawn is
between structural and non-structural mitigation. Structural mitigation is the building
of levees to protect communities from flooding, such as those constructed by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers. A non-structural mitigation project would be to remove
structures from the flood plain that have repeatedly experienced flood damage. The
essential difference is that the structural projects tend to construct barriers to protect
communities while non-structural projects attempt to remove structures and their
citizens from harm’s way. The removal of homes from a flood plain is an example
of the type of project eligible under HMGP and PDM.
Context and Trends
When Congress first appropriated funds in FY1997 for mitigation activities
before disasters occur, FEMA established the pilot program and called it “Project
Impact.” The communities participating in the initial pilot program were selected by
FEMA based on factors such as their experience with natural disasters, the ongoing
risk the community faced, and the degree of collaboration among local, county and
state officials. Project Impact placed most of its emphasis on community efforts to
mitigate those hazards that made the community vulnerable to future damage.
1 42 U.S.C. 5170(c).
This emphasis on community-based efforts included the required commitment
of the local governments, non-governmental organizations, the local business
community, as well as the development of an educational component for community
awareness. This approach grew out of experience which demonstrated the necessity
of community “buy-in” and active involvement with mitigation activities.
The study of elite attitudes and opinions with respect to disaster mitigation
policies demonstrates the relatively low priority placed on natural hazards as
political issues in local communities and even at the state level. It further
demonstrates the relative unpopularity of nonstructural mitigation measures as
compared to structural solutions to disaster problems or to traditional relief and2
While noting the reported reticence toward nonstructural mitigation, some in the
field were also turning a critical eye toward structural mitigation as a panacea for the
risks posed by natural hazards. One observer spoke to the gaps in the policy area as
Structural mitigations, for example, encourage people to move into hazardous
areas. Post-disaster relief tends to socialize risks, lets people be insensitive to
hazard risk when they build structures, and so forth. The current emphasis on
nonstructural or land use approaches reflects a concern that previous policy
emphases may well have increased, rather than decreased, the level of population3
at risk from hazards.
The concept of disaster mitigation had been favorably discussed for several
decades among some in the emergency management field. But absent serious
disaster damage during most of the 1980s, it was difficult to advance the concept.
As one observer explained:
With the comparative absence of major disasters during the Reagan years,
priorities shifted and commitment to proactive measures requiring time and
money waned. But in the early 1990’s, that attitude dramatically changed.
Massive losses between 1989 and 1993 from five major hurricanes, earthquakes,
and river floods resulted in mitigation making more sense to more people than
at any time previously.4
As noted above, the good fortune of the disaster-somnolent Reagan years were
followed by years with disasters of great scale in both human costs and financial
damages. The disasters included Hurricane Hugo (1989); Hurricane Andrew (1992);
the 1993 Midwest floods; the Northridge, California earthquake (1994); and
Hurricanes Fran and Floyd (1996 and 1999) along the eastern coast of the nation.
The confluence of these events helped to support those in favor of proactive work to
lessen the impact of disasters. But little organized research had been done up to that
2 James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi, ed. Social Science & Natural Hazards, (Cambridge:
Abt Books, 1981), p. 78.
3 Ibid. p. 82.
4 Robert E. Hinshaw, Living with Nature’s Extreme’s: The Life of Gilbert Fowler White,
(Boulder: Johnson Books, 2006), p. 181.
point to demonstrate the benefits of pre-disaster mitigation. Without such studies,
(later mandated by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 - DMA2K5), Congress
approached the PDM concept cautiously and provided funding at lower levels until
the benefits of such a program were proven.
PDM Legislative History
Pre-disaster hazard mitigation activities were initially funded through a pilot
program first established in the conference report that accompanied the 1997
appropriations legislation. The pertinent report language follows:
The conferees agree to up to $2,000,000 for FEMA’s participation in appropriate
pre-disaster mitigation efforts. The conferees agree with FEMA’s Director that
mitigation activities can ultimately save significant sums from post-disaster
clean-up and response actions and that the Agency should be taking an
increasingly active role in developing and participating in pre-disaster mitigation
programs. Such programs range in scope from the development and/or funding
of mitigation plans for communities to participation with industries, insurers,
building code officials, government agencies, engineers, researchers and others
in developing systems and facilities to test structures in disaster-like
circumstances. The conferees understand that these activities will require an
infusion of considerable up-front financial support as well as the possible
movement over time of disaster relief funds to pre-disaster programs, and the
Agency is expected to use up to the $2,000,000 provided herein in an appropriate
manner to begin the process of movement toward a meaningful pre-disaster
mitigation program. Expenditure of these funds may not, however, be made until
submission to the Committees on Appropriations appropriate pre-disaster6
mitigation spending plan.
Subsequent appropriations measures for fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000, and 20017
provided $30 million for 1998 and $25 million per year for the next three years.
Following four years of funding through appropriations statutes, Congress authorized
the program from 2000 to 2003 in the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2K)
which placed the PDM program in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and8
Emergency Assistance Act as Section 203.
5 P.L. 106-390, Sec. 209, 114 Stat. 1571.
6 U.S. Congress, Conference Committee, Making Appropriations for the Departments of
Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for Sundry Independent
Agencies, Boards, Commissions, Corporations, and Offices for the Fiscal Year Ending
September 30, 1997, and for Other Purposes, conference report to accompany H.R. 3666thnd
( P.L. 104-204), 104 Cong. 2 Sess., H.Rept.104-812 (Washington; GPO, 1996).
7 P.L. 105-65, 111 Stat. 1376; P.L. 106-390, 112 Stat. 501; P.L. 106-74, 113 Stat. 1086; and
P.L. 106-377, 114 Stat. 1441A-46.
8 42 U.S.C. 5133.
Originally, in its FY2003 and FY2004 budget requests, the Bush Administration
proposed consolidating all mitigation funds in the PDM program. “Adoption of this
proposal would have terminated funding provided through the Hazard Mitigation
Grant Program after a major disaster is declared.”9 Congress did not wish to entirely
eliminate the post-disaster mitigation help but did devote more resources to the pre-
disaster program. In order to shift the resource balance between post-disaster
mitigation and pre-disaster mitigation, Congress reduced the HMGP amount in the
Stafford Act for post-disaster work from 15% of the total amount spent on the
disaster (less administrative costs) to 7.5%.10 While the post-disaster mitigation pot
would shrink, the PDM program would grow. However, this shifting of resources
would be short lived.
Over its dozen year history, the funding levels for PDM have risen and fallen
and risen again. During this time the program also was given its own separate line
item account within the DHS/FEMA budget. The changes in the funding levels
represented differing approaches not only to PDM but to the mitigation concept as
9 For additional information see, archived CRS Report RL32242, Emergency Management
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security: Information and Issues for FY2005, by
Keith Bea, Shawn Reese, Wayne Morrissey, Frank Gottron, and C. Stephen Redhead, p. 30.
10 P.L. 108-7, Sec. 417, 117 Stat. 525.
Table 1. History of Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM)
Appropriations, FY1997 to FY2008
Year(in millions)(in millions)
1998Project Impact$50$30 EMPA account
1999Project Impact$50$25 EMPA account
2000Project Impact$30$25 EMPA account
2001Project Impact$30$25 EMPA account
2002Project Impact$0$25 EMPA account
2004PDM$300$150 PDM Fund
2006PDM$150$50 PDM Fund
2007PDM$100$100 PDM Fund
2008PDM$75$114 PDM Fund
Source: FEMA, Mitigation Directorate, May 2008.
a. EMPA is the Emergency Management and Planning Assistance (EMPA) account, which is FEMA’s
general administrative account.
b. The separate PDM account creates a separate line item for PDM for the first time in the FEMA
c. For the first time in legislative language, P.L.108-334 directs that the PDM funds “shall be awarded
on a competitive basis.”
The original “Project Impact”, the first PDM program, was closely identified
with then FEMA Director James Lee Witt. Witt was appointed by President Clinton
in 1993 and gained a high profile in the course of leading FEMA’s disaster response
and recovery efforts. Witt described “Project Impact” as “a program designed to
break the damage-repair, damage-repair cycle and instead help communities become11
11 James Lee Witt and James Morgan, Stronger in the Broken Places, (New York: Times
Books-Henry Hot and Company, 2002), p. 42.
While the initial funding amounts were relatively small for a national program,
Project Impact was generally considered a success. One author observed, for
example, that “the money was said to have worked wonders.”12 However, some
observers maintained that if funding were provided through a competitive process the
criteria could recognize areas with the greatest risk and where mitigation measures
could produce the most beneficial results, rather than areas that may have
experienced random disasters but did not necessarily face as grave an ongoing threat.
These differences resulted in “Project Impact” being eliminated from the FY2002
budget on the same day that the Mayor of Seattle was praising the program for
preventing further damage. In a coincidence of timing the Nisqually earthquake
struck Seattle and the Northwest region on the same day the Bush Administration
removed “Project Impact” from the federal budget.13
When the PDM authorizing legislation (DMA2K) was passed, Congress
addressed some of the same themes used in “Project Impact” but placed the
responsibility on the Governor of each state to suggest up to five communities to be
considered for pre-disaster mitigation assistance.14 While the Governor nominated
potential grantees, FEMA made the final selections. In addition, under the statute,
FEMA had the discretion under “extraordinary circumstances” to award a grant to a
local government that had not been recommended by a Governor.15
In 2002 FEMA decided to re-brand “Project Impact” the Pre-Disaster
Mitigation (PDM) program. While this title conformed to the legislative language it
also was intended to send another message as then FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh
I want to take the “concept” of Project Impact and fold it in to the program of
mitigation. Project Impact is not mitigation. It is an initiative to get “consumer
buy-in.” In many communities it became the catch-phrase to get local leaders16
together to look at ways to do mitigation.
For FY2003 and FY2004, Congress increased funding for pre-disaster
mitigation to $150 million from the previous $25 million level. Also, Congress had
inserted legislative language in the FY2003 Appropriations Act, which became law
on February 20, 2003 stating that PDM funds “shall be awarded on a competitive
12 Robert Block and Christopher Cooper, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of
Homeland Security, (New York: Times Books-Henry Holt and Company, 2006), p.68.
14 42 U.S.C. 5133(d).
15 42 U.S.C. 5133(d)(2)(B).
16 U.S.Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Testimony of Joe M. Allbaugh before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee
on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies, at [http://www.fema.gov/about/director/
basis.”17 FEMA administratively conformed to the direction from Congress and
made PDM a competitive grant program thereafter.18
While the authorization of PDM in FY2000 had recognized, at a minimum, the
potential benefit of mitigation prior to disaster events, the substantial funding
increase beginning in FY2003 was one component of a different overall approach.
This new approach was targeted not only to pre-disaster mitigation but to mitigation
in general. It represented a shift in thinking regarding the most appropriate time to
devote resources to mitigation in disaster-prone communities.
Some had suggested that the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) in the
Stafford Act (Section 404), which provides funding to a state following a major
disaster to mitigate future disaster damage, was taking the wrong approach, or, more
precisely, was in the wrong sequence. Since the funds arrive after the disaster event,
and are only available to states that have suffered the impact of a disaster, they cannot
be targeted at areas that might have a greater risk of a more costly disaster that has
not yet occurred. Pre-disaster mitigation, they argued, would be more effective.
However, others contended that only communities that have had recent disaster
experience have the immediate incentive, in the form of a community commitment
borne of experience, to take the steps necessary to reduce the risk of future disasters.
As one writer in the field has noted, it is imperative to garner community support
around a specific action:
This is especially true when those mitigation measures involve cranking up the
machinery of government, which, some contend, is especially prone to inertia....
Mitigation measures are also most effective when they have the broad support19
from the greatest number of people across a broad section of the community.
Post-Katrina Mitigation Funding
and the Mitigation Studies
Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress chose to reinstate the HMGP to its
previous level of 15% for the majority of disasters and established a new graduated20
scale for larger events. With that change, smaller amounts were requested and
appropriated on an annual basis for the PDM program. In FY2006, the appropriated
17 P.L. 108-7, 117 Stat. 515.
18 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fiscal
Year 2003 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, at [http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/
19 R.W. Greene, Confronting Catastrophe (ESRI Press: Redlands, California, 2002), p.15.
20 Stafford Act, Section 404, as amended, 120 Stat. 1447. If Stafford Act funding does not
reach $2 billion, the HMGP program will receive 15% of that amount. For disasters
between $2 billion and $10 billion, the HMGP award is 10% of the total. If the disaster total
is between $10 billion and $35.3 billion, the HMGP award is 7.5% of that amount.
amount was $50 million. However, Congress has recently begun to appropriate
larger sums for the PDM program, above requested levels.
These increases coincide with studies released in 2005 and 2007 which each
pointed to savings of $3 to $4 for each $1 spent on mitigation.21 These studies were
important to the PDM program, as the authors explained, since the findings:
provide independent evidence to support what nearly every member of the
hazards community knows anecdotally — generally, FEMA mitigation grants are22
The major study, “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to
Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities,” in accordance with the
directive from P.L. 106-390, was performed by the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council
(MHMC). The MHMC study defined a broad number of benefits that reached into
not only direct FEMA costs but corollary and indirect savings from mitigation at the
local level and within the business sector with an impact, or “ripple effect” on the
surrounding communities. The study weighed damages that were not always
previously considered when calculating savings such as business interruption and
environmental costs. The study, released in 2005 before the hurricane season,
provided a foundation for mitigation that was previously based on anecdote and
conjecture. The MHMC study listed areas of savings within communities from
mitigation and also moved to a macro level and focused on the long-term beneficial23
effects mitigation activities would have on the federal treasury on an annual basis.
Building on the MHMC study, in 2007 the Congressional Budget Office issued
its report on pre-disaster mitigation cost savings. While using slightly different
assumptions and cognizant of federal spending time lines, that report also noted a
proportional savings derived from the PDM program.24 These findings provided a
justification for increased PDM funding, which followed in FY2007.
21 Multi Hazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences, Natural
Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from
Mitigation Activities, December 2005, at [http://www.nibs.org/MMC/mmchome.html], and
CBO Potential Cost Savings from the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, Congressional
Budget Office, September 2007 at [http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/86xx/doc8653/
22 “Mitigation Generates Savings of Four to One and Enhances Community Resilience,”
Natural Hazards Observer, vol.xxx, no.4 (March2006), p. 1 at
[ ht t p: / / www.col or a do.edu/ haza r ds/ o/ ar chi ves/ 2006/ ma r 06/ ma r 06a.ht ml ] .
23 Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council, National Institute of Building Sciences, NATURAL
HAZARD MITIGATION SAVES: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from
Mitigation Activities, Volume 1 - Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, 2005, pp.
24 U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Potential Cost Savings from the Pre-Disaster
Mitigation Program, September 2007, p. 4.
Post-Katrina Funding — Competitive and Formula Grants
During FY2007, Congress increased PDM funding to $100 million, and for
FY2008 raised that amount to $114 million. In recognition of the larger appropriated
levels, Congress directed FEMA to implement the state minimum of $500,000
specified in the Stafford Act25 for eligible submitted projects.26 This formula, in
effect, made PDM both a competitive and a formula-driven program. The
implementation of the state minimum also served to retain interest in mitigation for
states that may not have been competitive, nor experienced recent disasters.
But the overall change in formula created a new kind of hybrid program, in
which grants would continue to be awarded through a competitive process and also
through guaranteed formula amounts for each state ($500,000) with eligible projects
or plans. For example, from a total program amount of $100 million, up to $25
million is in the formula pool and the remaining $75 million is available for the
The Congressionally directed spending for FY2008 PDM grants, the first
earmarks for the PDM program, accounts for over $50 million or 44% of the funding.
After factoring in state minimums, the available amount for open competitive grants
could be reduced from three quarters to just over a third of the total funds.
FEMA has several other program rules that govern the size of respective grants:
States and territories that submitted less than $500,000 in applications received
the amount requested, provided those applications are determined to be
eligible. The maximum PDM award for any one State shall not exceed $17
million. There is a $1 million cap on federal share available for plans and a27
single federal share cap of $3 million for projects.
The Administration has requested $75 million for FY2009. The Congressional
budget justification submitted to Congress for the FY2009 budget notes the $39
million reduction from the FY2008 level but does not offer any comment or
explanation for the change. Some have suggested that the seeming carryover amount
between FY2007 and FY2008 of more than $65 million may have contributed to the
conclusion that additional funding was not needed. FEMA has noted that since PDM
funds are no-year funds with a great amount of state and local participation in the
process, the lag time on the expenditure of funds is a practical part of program
administration. FEMA has also emphasized that funds being carried over are funds
dedicated to projects that have been selected and are awaiting final clearance.
25 42 U.S.C., 5133(f).
26 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency,
FY2007 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program Guidance, p. 1, at
27 Memo from Mike Grimm, FEMA Mitigation Directorate, May 13, 2008.
Grant Numbers and Categories
Given the authorizing language that requested that each Governor submit “not
fewer than five local governments to receive assistance under this section”28 it is not
surprising that the program would have a large number of grants (a total of 430 for
FY2008 and FY2009). The total number of grant awards is amplified by the
significant number of planning grants. These are usually awards for much smaller
amounts than project applications, and planning grant awards are distributed to many
Grants have been awarded for a variety of hazards being addressed by states and
communities. GAO’s review of FY2003 projects found that more than half of the
projects identified flooding as the primary hazard being mitigated by the grants. That
same review found that 12% of the grants were based on hurricane projects, just
under 7% sought to mitigate the effects of an earthquake, and 4% listed tornadoes as
the primary hazards to be addressed.29
The Congressional projects listed for PDM also have a variety of purposes.
Some appear to be traditional PDM projects such as the acquisition and relocation
of properties and wildfire mitigation activities. However, other projects listed among
the earmarks appear to be for purposes listed as ineligible in the PDM program
guidance materials. Examples of those projects include funding for equipment, fire
suppression activities, dams, and emergency alert and notification systems. These
projects reflect the preparedness vs. mitigation debate that, as the “Program Purposes
and Funding Criteria” section of this report explains, has been with the PDM
program since its inception.
Issues for Congressional Consideration
As Congress considers re-authorization of the PDM program there are several
issues that have emerged as points of discussion.
The Pace and Breadth of PDM Funding Distribution
As previously noted, in FY2008 the PDM program was earmarked for the first
time.30 The only previous earmarks of mitigation projects in general appeared in the
FY1999 Appropriations bill that earmarked unspent and prospective HMGP funds
28 42 U.S.C. 5133.
29 See Government Accountability Office, Hurricanes Katrina And Rita: Unprecedented
Challenges Exposed the Individuals and Households Program, Washington, September
30 P.L. 110-161, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Division E - Department of
Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008 (House Appropriations Committee Print).
for several projects.31 Grants for the FY2008 PDM program have not yet been
awarded and time lines have been extended specifically addressing projects that were
listed as the legislative earmarks.32 According to FEMA staff, they have engaged
with some of the earmarked communities to find projects eligible under traditional
PDM guidance. FEMA staff expects that through this process the number of projects
and plans submitted by earmark communities will grow.
Exact amounts of funding and the rate at which such grant funds are disbursed
can be difficult to discern, but the broad geographic distribution of recipients has
been a constant in the PDM program. The congressionally directed earmarks for the
FY2008 earmarks add to that distribution across many jurisdictions.
Table 2. Recent Distribution of PDM Funds, FY2006 to FY2008
AgencyFY2006 RecipientsFY2007 RecipientsFY2008 Recipients
DHS/FEMA67 grants in 37282 grants in 44148 grants in 42
states, 1 territorystates, 1 territorystates, 1 territory
DHS/FEMA4 grants to 4 Indian6 grants to 6 Indian None
Tribal GovernmentsTribal Governments
Congressional113 grants in 27a
Source: All information for years FY2006, FY2007, and FY2008 are from FEMA, Mitigation
Directorate, May 20, 2008.
a. The first total for grants numbers and states for FY2008 include the projects derived from the House
Appropriations Committee print of Congressional earmarks for the PDM program. As of May
20, 2008, FEMA believes the Congressional earmarks may result in a total of 113 projects. The
initial number of projects listed under P.L. 110-161 totaled 95 projects. The increase is based
on FEMA’s engagement with selected communities and developing more eligible mitigation
The funds have been distributed widely, but not always rapidly. While the
earmarks are new to the program, some have pointed to the lags in PDM spending,
such as the carryover of funds from FY2007 to FY2008, as an explanation for the
earmarks. Others have suggested that the same lag in funding, interpreted as a lack
of interest or need in the program, may have resulted in a reduced request by the
Administration for FY2009 PDM funding.
31 P.L. 106-74, 113 Stat. 1086. This act contained earmarks of mitigation funds for
California, Florida and North Carolina.
32 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joint
Explanatory Statement-Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (JES-PDM) at
[http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pdm/fy2008.shtm], “FEMA previously advised that
applicants for projects identified in the Joint Explanatory Statement had until March 22,
2008 to submit applications to FEMA through E-Grants. Due to unforeseen difficulties
during application, FEMA will reopen the application submission period from April 7, 2008
until the close of the application period on April 14, 2008 at 11:59:59 p.m. EDT.”
In a report by GAO analyzing the first year of PDM as a competitive grant
program during FY2003, it was noted that FEMA allocated just over $131 million
of the PDM funds for project grants. From that total, approximately $98 million (or
about 75%) was awarded at the time of the report. In response to the GAO findings,
FEMA explained that the remaining unobligated balance of funds was due to about
FEMA also contended that a relatively short application period helped to account for
the lack of eligible applications.33 Mitigation projects can be complicated to put
together since their impact may be spread across various sectors of communities and
can also require local consensus and a contribution of resources. The state and local
cost share is 25%.34
FEMA staff also suggest that PDM funds, much like FEMA’s Disaster Relief
Funds (DRF), are available until expended. Since, under the PDM program’s
guidance, the funds can be used for up to three years from the date of the award there
is less urgency to get funds out immediately and more time for communities to
develop effective projects and plans and more time for FEMA, through a peer review
process, to carefully review the submitted projects and plans.
The perception of slow distribution of PDM funds has continued in later years
as evidenced in the pace of awards made. According to FEMA listings, in FY2006
when $50 million was made available, only $39 million was awarded.35 Similarly,
for FY2007 $100 million was appropriated, but only $52.3 million had been awarded
according to totals on the FEMA website.36
However, FEMA staff have provided updated figures that now place total
FY2007 funding distributed at $131 million for a year when $100 million was
appropriated. These larger figures represent funding for planning and projects carried
over from previous years.37
This approach to batching funding was officially used by FEMA in FY2005:
Approximately $255 million is available for competitive grants, technical
assistance, and program support for the FY 2005 PDM program. As PDM funds
33 U.S. General Accounting Office, Status of FEMA’s FY03 Pre-Disaster Mitigation
Program, GAO-04-727R, April 28, 2004, pp. 2 and 21.
34 44 CFR, 206.432(c).
35 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, List
of FY 2006 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Recipients, at [http://www.fema.gov/government/
gr ant/pdm/fy06_pdm_grant_recipients.shtm] .
36 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, List
of FY 2007 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Recipients, at [http://www.fema.gov/government/
gr ant/pdm/fy07_pdm_grant_recipients.shtm] .
37 The latest figures provided by Mike Grimm, Deputy Director, Risk Reduction Division,
FEMA Mitigation Directorate, in a memo as of May 20, 2008. The update presents a much
different picture from the figures available on the public website.
are available until expended, this amount is comprised of Fiscal Year 2003,38
Also, when assessing funds not pledged to awarded grants it is helpful to
understand how the unpledged program dollars are used. Some of those funds are
devoted to ongoing expenses for each program year including FEMA administrative
costs, technical assistance contracts to assist applicants and sub-applicants,
management costs awarded to states, and other costs associated with the award
amounts. FEMA also holds back a small amount of funding for “reconsideration”
which allows for the review of projects and the correction of possible errors in
program administration, grant selection, and the calculation of funding amounts.39
All of these factors, from FEMA’s perspective, are reasonable considerations for
The reserved funds and other costs can be problematic, however, when they are
generally not identified in program lists of award amounts and could be more
precisely estimated as a percentage of annual program costs. Similarly, FEMA’s
approach to batching together several years of project funding may be a reasonable
approach to multi-year projects, but is not explained in the fiscal year totals currently
available to the public. These kinds of issues in how funding awards and other
spending are reported can present problems to Congress in assessing the program as
Terrorism and Pre-Disaster Mitigation
Some have questioned whether the PDM funding should be available to mitigate
the effects of terrorist events. The response of some PDM advocates is one that
applies not only to purpose but particularly to the overall balance of resources in
mitigation and preparedness programs. Some participants in this debate have noted
that while some projects may arguably be considered preparedness or mitigation,
there is little similarity between funding amounts available for those two purposes,
nor for the programs addressing terrorism.
While funding for the PDM program now exceeds $100 million, the amounts
for preparedness efforts for all-hazards, including terrorism, under DHS/FEMA
grants totaled over $4 billion at DHS/FEMA alone for FY2008 (though this amount
has been significantly reduced in the Administrations’s FY2009 budget request).40
Among those preparedness programs, six of the grant programs permit the purchase
of equipment such as warning systems and other preparedness projects sometimes
requested under the PDM program.41 Perhaps most importantly, the authorizing
38 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fiscal
Year 2005 PDM Information, at [http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pdm/fy2005.shtm].
39 Interview with Michael Grimm, Mitigation Directorate, May 14, 2008.
40 For additional information, see CRS Report RS22805, FY2009 Appropriations For State
and Local Homeland Security, by Shawn Reese.
41 For details on listed programs, see CRS Report RL32348, Selected Federal Homeland
language for the PDM program specifically makes clear that the state and local
governments interested in participating in the program are expected to identify
“natural disaster hazards” in areas under their jurisdiction for mitigation work.42
Projects and Plans
As noted earlier, the PDM grants for protecting public buildings or private
residences are the awards most closely associated with PDM. Projects tend to be
costly and relatively large in scale when committed to relocating neighborhoods or
building large safe rooms, or similar work. However, another significant category
of eligible work under the PDM program is the creation or improvement of hazard
mitigation plans for a community or state. With the passage of P.L. 106-390, the
Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2K), planning took on much greater
significance. In addition to authorizing PDM, DMA2K also authorized the
requirement for mitigation planning and authorized increasing the share of HMGP
grants from 15% to 20% of total disaster spending for states with an “enhanced
mitigation plan.”43 The complementary nature of the Stafford Act hazard mitigation
authorities is arguably evident when states use PDM funds to develop the “enhanced
plans” that, when approved, result in higher levels of HMGP funding.
Such planning grants are a major component of the PDM program. In FY2006
the planning grants comprised 47% of total grants selected for further review; in
FY2007 59% of such grants selected for further review were for planning efforts.44
However, the actual funding amounts for planning are relatively low. During
FY2006, projects selected for further review projected grant spending of $42.8
million while planning grants selected for further review totaled $3.9 million out of
a total of $50 million.
Similarly, in FY2007, the large majority of planning grants (135 of the grants
selected for further review) totaled only $16.5 million while project grants selected
for further review (75 grants) were awarded $67.1 million out of $100 million
available for awards.45 Given the nature of project grants and the large undertakings
Security Assistance Programs: A Summary, by Shawn Reese.
42 42 U.S.C. 5133(c).
43 42 U.S.C. 5165(e).
44 U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fiscal
Year 2006 and 2007, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Programs, at
[http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pdm/fy2006.shtm], and Fiscal Year 2007 Pre-
Disaster Mitigation Program, at
[http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pdm/fy2007/shtm]. Note: Grants “selected for
further review” refers to projects that have passed the first stage of review and await review
for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Environmental and Historic
Preservation review. (Interview with Michael Grimm, FEMA Mitigation Directorate, May
they represent (such as property acquisitions and similar commitments), they are far
more expensive than planning grants.
Table 3. Planning Grants and Project Grants
PlanningProjectPDMProgramPlanningGrants inProjectGrants in
Selected Selected (millions) (millions) (millions)
FY2006 47% 53% $50 $3.9 $42.8
FY2007 59% 41% $100 $16.5 $67.1
Source: FEMA Mitigation Directorate.
The remaining $20 million for the FY2007 awards includes awards still being
made, administrative costs, technical assistance for applicants, state management
costs, and funds held back for reconsideration.46
Resources vs. Requests
The importance of the resource questions is apparent when reviewing the
amounts available for PDM grants alongside the amounts requested by applicants.
In FY2006 and 2007, for example, the funding requested nearly tripled the amounts
available. In FY2006, $50 million was available and FEMA received initial requests
totaling $134 million. In FY2007, FEMA had $100 million available for grants and47
received requests for $292 million. Given the limit of five applications per state,
it is reasonable to suggest that the amounts requested could have been even higher
absent that limitation.
The authorizing legislation for PDM sets forth an array of funding criteria. The
criteria focus on elements such as the nature of the hazard, the degree of commitment
of and coordination by the state and local governments (including consistency with
appropriate mitigation plan), and the “extent to which prioritized, cost-effective
mitigation activities” can produce clear results.48
46 FEMA has updated the FY2007 amounts to $131 million expended for FY2007. This
amount is $31 million over the appropriated amount for FY2007 and represents carry-over
funding for projects that were selected in previous years but which had not received final
approval. (Interview with Mike Grimm, FEMA Mitigation Directorate, May 22, 2008.)
47 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fiscal
Year 2006 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, at [http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/
pdm/fy2006.shtm], and Fiscal Year 2007 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, at
[ h t t p : / / www.f e ma .gov/ gover nment / gr a nt / pdm/ f y2007.sht m] .
48 42 U.S.C. 5133(g).
Along with the statutory funding criteria, FEMA, in its PDM program guidance,
lists ineligible activities for PDM planning and project activities. FEMA staff noted
that they have derived much of the suggested changes to the eligibility listings from
the peer review panels, composed of local practitioners in the mitigation/emergency
management field, that review applications each year. It is the intent of the program
staff to provide more clarity for applicants by providing such a list.49
The ineligible activities list for Fiscal Year 2008 contains 8 items related to
PDM planning and 23 ineligible activities for the PDM project grants. (For the latter
category, this is an increase; for FY2007, the number of ineligible activities was
16).50 The list broadly supports compliance with practices such as environmental and
historic preservation and the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA). But other
excluded items (such as the construction of levees or flood mapping) are arguably
seeking to ensure that PDM planning or project funds do not duplicate similar efforts
funded by other programs.
However, some observers argue that the FEMA interpretation of eligible PDM
projects has grown overly restrictive, particularly with regard to equipment purchases
to address different hazards. For example, some observers believe that the purchase
of warning or alert notifications systems should be an eligible expense for PDM. (It
should be noted that warning systems and other “gray areas” can be funded through
the HMGP program’s 5% initiative that was put in place a dozen years ago. This was
established to allow some flexibility for actions that may or may not meet cost-
effectiveness criteria).51 Others suggest that the purchase of generators under the
PDM program should be eligible beyond the standards for such purpose in the
program guidance.52 The arguments over individual categories and projects are
symbolic of the overarching effort to differentiate the concepts of preparedness and
Length of Authorization
The PDM program has been re-authorized previously in four different pieces of
legislation, initially for three years, then two one-year re-authorizations through
Appropriations bills, and then another three year authorization from 2005 to 2008.53
The current authorization expires at the end of the current fiscal year (September 30,
2008). The original sunset date in P.L. 106-390 (December 31, 2003) was intended
to provide time for more information to be gathered on the efficacy of pre-disaster
49 Interview with Mike Grimm, Deputy Director, Risk Reduction Division, Mitigation
Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management
Agency, May 20, 2008.
50 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pre-
Disaster Mitigation Program Guidance, pp. 27-28 and pp. 39-40.
51 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hazard
Mitigation Grant Program Desk Reference.
53 P.L. 106-390, 114 Stat. 1557; P.L. 108-199, 118 Stat. 441; P.L. 108-447, 118 Stat. 3343;
and P.L. 109-139, 119 Stat. 2649.
mitigation. Some of that has been evidenced in both the Multi Hazard Mitigation
Council Report as well as the report by the Congressional Budget Office. The
recurrent sunset date, however, has set the PDM program apart from the rest of the
Stafford Act which is a free-standing, no-year authorization. Congress might be
inclined to put the PDM program on equal footing with the rest of the Stafford Act
and have an ongoing, no-year authorization.
On the other hand, it can be argued that some of the Stafford Act provisions are
so vital to emergency situations (e.g. debris removal, temporary sheltering and
lodging) that not having to seek re-authorization on a regular basis is a practical and
effective approach to the legislation. Conversely, since the PDM program is a
voluntary grant program, some might contend, having a three to four year re-
authorization cycle provides incentives to all participants to refine and improve the
program in anticipation of Congressional oversight.
Methods of Awarding PDM Funds
When the pilot program, Project Impact, was initiated in 1997 an emphasis was
placed on the communities selected by FEMA. That selection was based on the
communities’ disaster history, the involvement of community-based organizations
in mitigation work, the participation of the local business community and the
commitment of the state and local governments. There was some concern at the time
on the part of state emergency management officials that they were not sufficiently
involved during the project selection process. The switch to a competitive process
also reflected some of those factors that Project Impact employed, but also placed
greater emphasis, in light of statutory language, on cost-benefit ratios. Also, since
funding for planning was made eligible, the program opened up to many
communities that desired an improved mitigation plan.
For the overall awards process, Congress generally has come to direct the PDM
program in annual appropriations law rather than through Congressional hearings
specifically on the PDM program and resulting authorizing legislation.
State emergency managers have stated their position that a competitive process
may tend to limit smaller states’ ability to access a program like PDM. Echoing the
tenets of federalism, they would like funds made available to each state and decisions
made at the state and local level concerning the hazards that pose the most significant
threats and the areas that could benefit most from PDM funding. As one state
emergency management director, speaking on behalf of the National Emergency
Management Association (NEMA), testified:
Attempting to prioritize limited predisaster mitigation funding on the national
level is counterproductive to the establishment of state and local planning,
therefore NEMA supports the distribution of predisaster mitigation funds by a
base plus population formula rather than by competitive grants. The competitive
system as it is presently funded creates more losers than winners: in an enterprise
that seeks to encourage communities to engage to protect themselves, it seems
counterproductive to pit good programs against good programs when the54
objective is that predisaster mitigation programs be undertaken.
Since 2007, in addition to the competitive process, the PDM program has also
implemented a $500,000 minimum per state for eligible projects or plans. Given the
amount of appropriations, this minimum amount means that close to 25% of funds
may now be awarded outside of the competitive process. Congress may consider
examining if they wish the PDM program to return to its initial form of selection by
Governors and the President or have a strictly competitive grant process. A third
option is the present configuration of a hybrid program that is predominantly
competitive but with some flexibility for awards for every state. Congress can also
consider if it wishes to continue with congressionally-directed spending that was
initiated in FY2008 and, if so, at what level since it accounted for nearly half of all
spending. Congress may also wish to review the suggested amounts and percentages
that are now a part of the administrative formula employed by FEMA and make those
designated amounts a part of the legislation.
An entirely different approach would be to make a structural change in program
delivery. Under this proposal, the PDM program and the HMGP program would
move from FEMA to a newly created Federal Mitigation and Recovery Authority.
In the aftermath of Katrina there has been criticism of FEMA’s uncertain role in
long-term recovery as opposed to its initial role in delivering emergency response
programs such as temporary housing. (The latter also drew criticism, but FEMA’s
authority and responsibility was not in question.) Some have suggested a separate
authority/organization with expertise in the rebuilding cycle could be partnered with
mitigation programs. In this way, two important phases — building back safer while
also making communities more resilient — could receive separate but
complementary attention. PDM requires planning and community-wide
participation, as does recovery. The roles FEMA is expected to assume are diverse
and require very different skills. Some experts have noted the differing roles may not
However, it is not clear to us that institutional arrangements that are appropriate
for implementing emergency measures after a disaster has occurred (crisis
response) are also the appropriate institutional arrangements for long-term
forward planning of mitigation measures before a disaster has occurred (given
the three levels of government with jurisdictional mandates in this context),
which in turn may not be appropriate for planning the long-term recovery of55
54 Testimony of James Mullen, Mitigation Chair, National Emergency Management
Association, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management,th
Saving Lives and Money Through the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, hearing, 110nd
Cong. 2 sess., April 30, 2008.
55 Michael J. Trebilcock and Ronald J. Daniels, “Rationales and Instruments for Government
Intervention,” in Ronald J. Daniels, Donald F. Kettl, and Howard Kunreuther, eds. On Risk
and Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press), p. 105.
Direct Application for PDM Grants by Eligible Non-Profits
Currently, non-profits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with eligible
projects must submit their application through their local government. This process
assures knowledge and approval by local authorities. Such an approach can also
combine the perspective of the non-profit with the interest of the community as a
whole. The current system appears to be a reasonable construct for communication
and cooperation at the local level. However, it also means that the local government
must move promptly, and make a submission adhering to program rules, for a project
without their own direct ownership or administrative interest. When in particular
circumstances this could be a burden on a local government with limited resources,
the plans or projects could also be submitted through a state government as well.
In order to improve the efficiency of the competitive process, it may be possible
to permit NGOs to submit their project directly to FEMA. However this should be
done with the requirement that the application has been, at a minimum, shared with
the local government at the same time so that they may be not only aware of the
project, but in agreement that the projects comports with local mitigation planning.
This approach was suggested recently in testimony by an official of an association
of local government emergency managers.56 This type of approach would also give
the local or state officials the opportunity to comment on the project proposal.
Others have suggested that an NGO application for a PDM grant must be a part
of the State or local hazard mitigation plan. Current FEMA guidance already states
that requirement.57 Since FEMA has placed a priority on the plans, the instructions
for NGOs that currently are a part of the program guidance could be added to
legislative language. The legislative criteria for PDM only require that projects
submitted by a state or local government be “consistent with the mitigation plan.”58
There are a number of project activities that are ineligible under FEMA’s
program guidance for the PDM program. Some of the ineligible activities include
costs of maintenance to structures (e.g. levees and dams); the purchase of generators
for non-critical facilities or for facilities that are not a part of a larger mitigation
56 Testimony of Robert C. Bohlmann, U.S. Government Affairs Committee Chair,
International Associations of Emergency Managers, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public
Buildings, and Emergency Management, Saving Lives and Money Through the Pre-Disasterthnd
Mitigation Program, hearing, 110 Cong. 2 sess., April 30, 2008.
57 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pre-
Disaster Mitigation Program Guidance, at [http://www.fema.gov/library/
58 42 U.S.C. 5132(g)(7).
project; and the broadest category – projects for which benefits “are available from
another source for the same purpose.”59
A particular example at the crux of this debate are warning systems. Many
communities have sought to use PDM funds to purchase warning systems such as
sirens to protect their citizens against sudden disasters. FEMA considers such alert
notification systems as eligible under disaster preparedness grants but not under the
PDM program. Similarly, FEMA has previously determined that the purchase of
stand-alone generators is a preparedness effort to address the likely results of a
disaster rather than mitigating its effect. One exception is the purchase of generators
that will power a mitigation effort. For example, a generator providing power to
activate hurricane storm shutters would be eligible. Generators that provide power
for critical public facilities may also be eligible.
For FY2008, some of the congressionally earmarked projects for PDM include
some of the activities listed as ineligible in FEMA’s program guidance such as fire
suppression activities and the purchase or enhancement of emergency alert and
notification systems. Such designations do not involve differences over the location
of grants but their purposes. Congress may wish to express its disagreement with
FEMA’s guidance or it may direct FEMA to adhere to the PDM program’s current
eligibility criteria when making PDM grant awards.
Upgraded Codes and Zoning
In a hearing on the re-authorization of the PDM program, Subcommittee Chair
Eleanor Holmes Norton queried panelists on evaluating the status and quality of local
codes and zoning as part of the assessment of PDM grant proposals. It could be
argued that appropriate codes would best reflect the “degree of commitment by a
state or local government” that the Stafford Act lists as a consideration.60 While
Representative Norton did not endorse that approach she was interested in hearing
from panelists representing state and local officials. Panelist Jim Mullen of
Washington state noted the difficult and lengthy process in changing a code. Other
experts have pointed out the opposition that such proposed changes can generate
within a community:
Developers, builders, and other economic interests, including individual property
owners, often oppose the adoption of strict land-use regulations and building
standards and too often successfully prevent their adoptions. They argue that
such regulations will increase the cost of building, reduce the value of property,
limit the prerogatives of property owners in terms of what they can and cannot
do with their property, and make it more difficult to sell the property to others.
59 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, “PDM
Program Guidance, 4.3 Ineligible Program Activities and Costs,” p. 40 at
60 42 U.S.C. 5133(g)(2).
In large measure, their arguments are valid. The question, however, is whether61
those concerns outweigh the potential costs of not mitigating disasters.
Local codes and zoning can arguably be considered the strongest commitment
to mitigation that can be made by a governmental entity. That approach, the
insistence on strong local codes, has been a part of the National Flood Insurance
Program (NFIP) since its inception. NFIP regulations stipulate that as a criterion for
participation in the flood insurance program a community must demonstrate “the
adequacy of a community’s flood plain management regulations. These local
regulations must be legally enforceable, applied uniformly throughout the community
to all privately and publicly owned land within flood-prone, mudslide (i.e. mud flow) or
flood-related erosion areas, and the community must provide that regulations take
precedence over any less restrictive conflicting local laws, ordinances, or codes.”62
Shifting more of the PDM program to a code or zoning threshold could
challenge communities to greater commitment than current program criteria. As one
observer has noted, a dominant federal role may appear logical in the context of
overall disaster spending and in its purpose to save lives and protect property.
However, the perceived federal leadership and funding also may come at a price
beyond the budgetary.
The perception of federal benevolence discourages responsible hazard mitigation
among nonfederal interests, thus contributing to the potential for greater losses
in future disasters. Shirking responsibility for hazard mitigation among states
and local governments may take two forms: (1) unwillingness to expend their
own funds for disaster planning and hazard mitigation and (2) avoidance of the
political and fiscal burdens of regulating land use in areas subject to natural63
While strong and effective codes may reduce the impact of hazards, local
officials, it may be argued, are weighing other considerations regarding economic
growth for the community, which in turn contributes to the support of many other
local governmental obligations. Additionally, the PDM program is voluntary.
Communities participating in the program are taking the initiative to protect their
citizens and their property. In most cases, these communities are also paying the
25% cost share for the project or plan. Another consideration is that for a program
that has been criticized for its pace of expenditures, linking such spending to the
development of codes or changes in zoning laws would likely create a far more
61 William L. Waugh, Jr., Living With Disasters, Dealing With Disasters, (New York: M.E.
Sharpe, 2000), p. 155.
62 44 CFR Subpart A, 60.1,(b).
63 Rutherford H. Platt, Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events,
(Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999), p. 102.
Multiple Mitigation Programs
A final issue for Congress is to once again consider the PDM program within
the context of federal hazard mitigation policy as a whole. However, that whole is
divided among varying approaches involving timing, targeted funding for particular
hazards (notably flooding), and separate funding accounts within FEMA.
Earlier in this report the relationship was noted between the PDM program and
the post-disaster HMGP program. In addition to those two programs, FEMA also
administers the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program (FMA), which is part of the
flood insurance program, the Repetitive Flood Claims Program (RFC) and the Severe
Repetitive Loss Program (SRL). These five mitigation grant programs have some
differences, but generally fund similar projects. The history behind the programs
indicates Congressional intent to address specific problems and also provide
discretion to state and local governments in the manner they choose to address
In discussing the overall impact of its programs, FEMA’s Mitigation Directorate
has reported that the existing mitigation grant programs awarded more than $444.2
million to 1,050 projects and plans nationwide in 2007.64 The majority of that
funding came from the HMGP program, which receives its funding on a formula
basis from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).65 The other programs, such as PDM,
FMA, and the repetitive loss programs, are individual accounts funded through the
annual appropriations process.
The Mitigation Directorate at FEMA has taken steps to, if not totally blend the
programs, make sure that the programs are complementary. A good example of this
approach is that the guidance provided for grant applications stresses early on that it
“does seek to integrate programs by allowing applications to be considered by other
An issue for Congressional consideration is whether the programs should be
combined for greater and more consistent impact. A subject for consideration is that
the damage reductions accomplished by these mitigation programs are reflected in
smaller payments from the DRF for future disaster events. Given that fact, an
argument can be made that funding for a combined mitigation program could come
from the DRF through an annual allocation rather than for separate events and
separate accounts. A combined program could address all hazards as is the case with
the PDM and HMGP programs.
64 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Mitigation Directorate, Memo from FEMA Office of Legislative Affairs, July 16, 2008.
65 The DRF is the no-year fund that funds disaster response and recovery programs.
Congress provides funding both through annual appropriations and, most prominently,
through supplemental appropriations to the DRF.
66 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Mitigation Directorate, Grant Applications Guidance.
An additional argument can be made that eventual savings from mitigation
activities would accrue to not only the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) but
also the private insurance industry as losses are reduced. For that reason, it might be
argued, payments for at least one program, the FMA, should continue to come from
the NFIP. This view of mitigation may also be an argument for the federal
government and states to consider encouraging mitigation approaches through private
insurers by insisting on the adoption and implementation of mitigation measures
similar to the process the NFIP employs.
Over the last decade, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program has developed and
grown as mitigation itself has become accepted federal policy. Adoption and
expansion of mitigation as a beneficial approach for government has been bolstered
by studies that demonstrated cost reductions following disasters due to earlier
Appraisal of the PDM program is open to different interpretations and
conclusions. While program staff at FEMA point to a program with flexibility and
an appreciation of the regulatory challenges faced by communities carrying out
mitigation projects, other observers see what appears to be the contrary, citing
unspent funds and a perceived rigidity in program guidance that hinders the
flexibility of local governments in accessing the PDM funding and in using it in a
manner they choose. The majority of the program funds is spent on mitigation
projects, but a substantial portion of the funding is spent on the development and
improvement of state and local mitigation plans. The remainder of funds are spent
for technical and administrative assistance or held back for “reconsideration” for
In FY2008 Congress directed the funding of some PDM projects for the first
time. The earmarks were broadly distributed as previous PDM funding has been.
The congressional earmarks represented 44% of funds available for the competitive
and set-aside PDM grants. The Congressionally directed grants also funded some
projects that do not appear to be in accord with FEMA’s program guidance. As the
FY2009 Appropriations are considered, it appears from early actions in the House
that the PDM program may again receive a significant number of earmarks.67
The 110th Congress is considering the re-authorization of the PDM program.
The legislation under consideration extends the program and also would codify in
law previous program practices with some adjustments. In addition, there are
broader considerations the Congress may wish to take up regarding federal mitigation
policy in the future.
67 Matthew M. Johnson, “Subcommittee Approves Homeland Security Spending,”
Congressional Quarterly, June 11, 2008, at [http://homeland.cq.com/hs/display.do?docid=