|The Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii|
In 1994 Congress directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to lead an inter-agency effort to promote tsunami awareness and preparedness effort. The effort joined the U.S. Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Administration with the state emergency management agencies in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. In 1997, as a result of the initial leadership of Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) (the by-then-retired Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee) on the issue, an initial earmark of $2.3 million established the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP).
Predictably, anti-earmark crusader Senator John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor in July 1997 to “object strenuously” to the inclusion of, denounce, among other projects included in an appropriations bill, including the earmark for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. McCain specifically objected to “$2.3 million to reduce tsunami risks to residents and visitors in Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii, and Alaska.”
|A coastal community overwhelmed, 2004|
|Tsunami damage in Hawaii, 2011|
The executive branch is not the sole repository of all good ideas. Members of Congress are uniquely suited to identify issues of import to the communities they represent. It is unlikely that a bureaucrat sitting behind a desk in Washington, DC will spend much time thinking about tsunami dangers to coastal communities a continent away. The American system of representation positions of members of Congress to press the federal government to respond to local and regional issues and concerns. The recent moratorium on earmarks undermines the ability of members to be responsive to these concerns and, perhaps, the ability of our system to generate innovative approaches to pressing national problems.
 Congressional Record, July 24, 1997, S8076.