As of January 1, 2017, McCabe is NEHRP Director, providing overall program management and coordination; facilitating implementation of earthquake risk mitigation measures; and building and maintaining effective partnerships with stakeholders in industry, academia and government and the four NEHRP agencies. On October 1, 2015, he was selected as the Group Leader of the Earthquake Engineering Group. In this position, he serves as the NIST representative on the NEHRP Program Coordination Working Group. He continues to manage NEHRP research that is conducted or supported by NIST through its Earthquake Risk Mitigation R&D Program, which combines in-house and extramural expertise to address key research and knowledge-transfer issues in earthquake engineering. He also assists in cooperative work involving the NEHRP agencies and other federal, state, and public domains.
Prior to joining NIST, McCabe was Chief Executive Officer of NEES Consortium, Inc. from 2007 to 2010. There he was responsible for management and operation of the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with an annual budget of $22 million. He managed the day-to-day operations of NEES headquarters and the network’s information technology (IT) development, and worked with NSF, the 15 NEES experimental sites, and the earthquake engineering research community to increase use of network facilities.
From 1985 to 2007, McCabe was a professor of structural engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He taught a variety of courses from beginning analysis through steel, concrete, and masonry structural design, and served as department chair from July 1998 through September 2002. His research interests included earthquake engineering and structural dynamics as well as the application of computer-based nonlinear analysis techniques to static and dynamic analysis problems. A particular interest is the identification of damage levels and reserve capacity in structures under dynamic loads. He researched reinforcing bar mechanical splice performance issues under extreme loading and developed criteria and design rules for headed reinforcing bars and other new reinforcing systems for concrete structures.
During 2002–2005 McCabe served as program manager for the Structural Systems and Hazard Mitigation of Structures Program in the Division of Civil and Mechanical Systems at NSF. He managed research funding for structural performance under extreme loading, both natural and manmade, as well as supporting work in structural health monitoring. He was active in the construction and initial operational phases of NEES and managed the first two NEES research competitions.
Before beginning his academic career, McCabe worked at several engineering firms as a design and resident engineer primarily in the nuclear- and fossil-power industries. He is a registered professional engineer and has been active in many national and international professional societies.