Making the District of Columbia a Resilient City

The District of Columbia is two years into its process of making the District a more resilient city, with the goal of producing a final resilience strategy for the DC government by February 2019.

At a December 2019 breakfast briefing, Kevin Bush, the District’s Chief Resiliency Officer, shared details about the process for developing the strategy, and his team gathered input from Federal City Council (FC2) Trustees on the District’s resilience priorities.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser established the Resilient DC Initiative to tackle natural and man-made challenges that threaten the city together with the social challenges that come with being a fast-growing city.

“What we’re really trying to do is use the lens of acute shocks and chronic stresses in the District to plan for its future,” said Bush. “We are asking ourselves whether we are prioritizing everything we need to prioritize in order to ensure the city thrives as it faces change.”

Bush described acute shocks as natural events such as wildfires, floods and hurricanes. Chronic stresses are cyclical activities that weaken the city, such as the high cost of housing, economic hardship and strained transportation systems.

By tackling the short-term shocks and the long-term stresses in the resilience strategy, Bush said the District would be better positioned to respond to adverse events and better able to deliver basic functions in both good and bad times.

Bush’s team established a high-level framework for examining resiliency and looked for ideas from the public and focus groups to address resilience in three key areas: economic and population growth; technology disruption and change; and climate change. Bush sought Trustees’ ideas and concerns in these areas at the breakfast briefing.

“As an organization, we have been involved with the city’s resilience efforts from the very beginning,” said Kevin Clinton, Chief Operating Officer of the FC2. “This briefing gives us a chance to check in 18 months into the city having a resilience officer.”

A curated resilience strategy will be presented to the Mayor’s Resilience Cabinet by the end of February. The strategy will outline established and potential resiliency efforts in the District and region. The effort is supported by a grant from 100 Resilient Cities, which is administered by The Rockefeller Foundation.

“The strategy has to consider and incorporate that there are the 67 separate agencies in the District of Columbia,” said Bush. “We’re trying to find everybody’s piece of the puzzle to produce the best strategy possible.”