Feds should follow Florida’s lead in establishing chief resilience officer
When it comes to weather-related and natural disasters here in Florida, there are processes and procedures in place to coordinate local, state, regional, and federal efforts before, during, and after an emergency. In fact, our state has shared best practices in preparedness and proactive resiliency across the country.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature this year passed comprehensive legislation to make communities more resilient and address sea level rise. Further, it moved the position of Florida Chief Resilience Officer from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to the Executive Office of the Governor. Florida is one of only nine states to have such a position and there is no coordinated resilience effort at the federal level.
The NCARS Act (National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy, S.3516 / HR6461), with Florida Congresswoman Maria Elvira-Salazar as a co-sponsor, is the bipartisan federal effort that would help set national flood preparedness and adaptation strategy – and create a first-ever national chief resilience officer (CRO) within the White House.
And here’s why we need to give this new federal legislation a fighting chance.
Currently, there are at least 17 federal agencies that deal with natural disaster recovery and preparedness plans, programs, and funding, creating waste and redundancy. As of June 2021, more than 15 states, including Florida, have initiated comprehensive resilience planning processes to help address flood mitigation. Dedicating time to coordinate state and national disaster resilience strategy is essential if we are to manage key resources effectively and efficiently throughout an emergency.
This federal CRO will be charged with 1) directing a whole-of-government approach to resilience efforts and 2) establishing and leading up to five inter-agency working groups, each with a specific topic of focus.
Within 16 months of the bill’s enactment, and every three years thereafter, the CRO and working groups will submit a report to the President and Congress summarizing existing federal resilience operations.
The report aims to identify limitations and redundancies of federal efforts, as well as opportunities for enhanced collaboration amongst agencies. In addition, the report will summarize federal funding resources available for resilience and identify ways to ensure that federal funds are being distributed effectively and equitably.
NCARS also establishes a partner’s council, chaired by the CRO, with representatives from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; NGOs; the private sector; and academia.
Not only are we in favor of this commonsense approach, but NCARS also has the support of nearly 50 other public and private entities based here in Florida, including 1000 Friends of Florida, Florida League of Cities and Florida TaxWatch.
This is clearly a priority for many that, if passed, will serve the best interests and overall wellbeing of Floridians – and all Americans – in the years ahead.
Gary Williams services as executive director of the Florida Rural Water Association, a nonprofit, non-regulatory professional association, based in Tallahassee.
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