Anticipate, Adapt, and Build Back Better: The Grand Pathways Framework for Resilient Communities

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Introduction & Purpose

The Resilience Science and Technology Grand Pathways Framework aims to build resilient communities by identifying, aligning, and prioritizing science, technology, and innovation that equitably and justly strengthen multiple dimensions of American society.

In recent years, America’s communities have faced unprecedented shocks and stresses due to natural hazards, accidents, and deliberate acts, some occurring in tandem or as cascading disasters. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2021, the United States experienced 20 weather or climate disaster events with losses that exceeded $1 billion each; since 1980, 310 such events occurred.[1] Weather events, like the unusual cold snap in Texas in February 2021[2] , lead to pronounced secondary effects, such as prolonged power losses. Deliberate disruptions, like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that disrupted oil supply chains[3], can have similar widespread impacts. Both of these events occurred while the Nation grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic, and other health crises that have exacerbated pre-existing weaknesses in the built environment as well as social and institutional inequities.

Helping individuals, families, and communities recover from these immense challenges while building their resilience to historical, ongoing, and future stressors is a challenge that requires a whole-of community effort, and that includes focusing and harnessing science, technology, and innovation. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law highlights the need to address these challenges by investing over $50 billion to build the Nation’s resilience to the impacts of climate and extreme weather hazards, and directs investment in billions more in infrastructure that will need to be resilient to both natural and man-made hazards. [4] There are a number of other investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act[5] that, if built with all-hazards resilience and cybersecurity in mind, will significantly enhance the Nation’s resilience to climate change and a wide array of other threats and hazards. Further, the Biden Administration’s commitments to increasing social equity[6] and environmental justice[7] will help remedy persistent inequities that have diminished the resilience of communities.

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)’s Subcommittee on Resilience Science and Technology (SRST) investigated methodologies and strategies to assist agencies focusing their resources as they make use of the generational investments afforded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law[8] and the Inflation Reduction Act.[9] SRST was created in 2019 to address cross-cutting resilience science and technology issues related to all threats and hazards, at all stages of risk management, considering both physical and social science dimensions. SRST is investigating the interdependencies among societal dimensions of resilience (including the key functions and cross-cutting enablers that support them), and identifying the critical gaps that impede resilience. The goal of these investigations is to identify mechanisms, or “grand pathways,” to align current and future resilience science and technology capabilities to address those gaps across multiple disruptions, resources and cross-cutting enablers, key functions, and societal dimensions to assist communities in advancing their own resilience. A sound, single framework will help prioritize investments and ensure that Federal dollars are spent to their best advantage.

A resilient community anticipates, avoids, adapts to, withstands, and builds back better in the wake of disruptions.

This report outlines the Resilience Science and Technology Grand Pathways Framework, which aims to identify science, technology, and innovation approaches that improve communities’ abilities to anticipate, avoid, adapt to, withstand, and build back better from acute shocks and chronic stresses with the potential to cause disruption or destruction. End users of the Grand Pathways Framework include Federal agencies and their partners, such as planners, policy makers, community leaders, innovators, and others. This effort builds on the Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction (2005) and follow-on hazard specific implementation plans (2008) published by the NSTC’s Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction.[10] The Grand Challenges provided a 10-year strategy for Federal agencies and external partners and stakeholders to deliver science- and technology-based investments to increase disaster resilience, with efforts aimed at increasing understanding, reducing vulnerability, informing decisions and otherwise promoting risk-wise behaviors.

[1] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2021. “Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters.”

[2] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2021. “Valentine's Week Winter Outbreak 2021: Snow, Ice, & Record Cold.”

[3] Department of Energy. 2021. “Colonial Pipeline Cyber Incident.”

[4] The Executive Office of the President. 2022. “President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

[5] See, for example, The Executive Office of the President. 2022. “FACT SHEET: Inflation Redduction Act Advances Environmental Justice.”

[6] The Executive Office of the President. 2021. “Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

[7] The Executive Office of the President. 2021. “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”

[8] The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (P.L. 117-58) is also referred to as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021,

[9] The Inflation Reduction Act is P.L. 117-169,

[10] National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction. 2005. “Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction.”

This was originally published in March 2023 on It has been broken-up into bite sized sections, each with unique headlines and AI-generated lead images, in line with the provisions of Creative Commons 3.0.

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