By David Baxter – Sr. Fellow. We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land…….And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled…….Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land……..I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore………I am going to bring back millions of jobs……..Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program — the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding………America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country – twice……..To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs………This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.”
(President Donald Trump – address to Congress on February 28th, 2017)
“Infrastructure is the foundation that connects the nation’s businesses, communities, and people, driving our economy and improving our quality of life. For the U.S. economy to be the most competitive in the world, we need a first-class infrastructure system – transport systems that move people and goods efficiently and at reasonable cost by land, water, and air; transmission systems that deliver reliable, low-cost power from a wide range of energy sources; and water systems that drive industrial processes as well as the daily functions in our homes. Yet today, our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with the current and expanding needs, and investment in infrastructure is faltering. We must commit today to make our vision of the future a reality – an American infrastructure system that is the source of our prosperity.”
(ACES 2013 Report Card for American Infrastructure)
Last night President Trump delivered a speech that highlighted his administration’s commitment to improving the deficient national infrastructure of the United States of America.
He highlighted the reality of crumbling infrastructure and his intention to promote legislation that will produce US $1 Trillion for investment in the infrastructure of the United States, financed through public and private capital. This program would have the additional goal of creating millions of jobs for Americans by American’s. The 2013 ACES Report Card on the state of American infrastructure is sobering and the 2017 report due on March 9th, 2017 will paint no more a rosy picture, and which will undoubtedly support President Trump’s urging for a focus on developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure anew.
This national goal can be achieved, but it will require a collaborative commitment from both the public and private sectors to mobilize the vast array of resources needed to achieve this much-needed national target. There may be detractors who say that this goal is a mirage mired in the ever-shifting political sands of Washington D.C. It would show a high level of responsible leadership if politicians could optimistically embrace the intent of improving national infrastructure as this is a win-win opportunity for all American’s, irrespective of political background. We all need access to good infrastructure to build a sustainable and expanding economy. In addition, if the public and private sectors could overcome their suspicions of each other, the next four years could herald in an era when partnerships between the public and private sector could duplicate those pivotal moments in U.S. history that launched the railways, roads, ports, and power plants that allowed the U.S. to persevere through First World War, the Second World War, and the Cold War.
It was in each of these times of trial that the public and private sectors formed strong partnerships that were pragmatic and supported by great political and economic stewards. It was also during these times that the infrastructure foundations were built that made the U.S. a world leader in industrial innovation.
The goal that has been set is immense and will need focus if it is to be successful. The following actions would bolster the chance of success:
- Finding ways to harmonize a national strategy that embraces the priorities of federal, state, and local government infrastructure needs and initiatives. This will require collaboration between federal and state agencies at a level not seen for many years
- Identifying key national infrastructure priorities that can serve as infrastructure incubators of economic recovery
- Supplementing these key national priorities with state level projects that diffuse the impact across all corners if the nation
- Avoiding the building of any vanity projects and limited the impacts of disingenuous lobbyists
- Developing politically neutral infrastructure project pipelines that have the unselfish support of both political and industry leadership
- Creating an enabling environment that will allow federal agencies to embrace public private partnerships as a tool for harnessing the financing and innovation that the private sector can bring to the table
- Identifying infrastructure projects for advancement that serve the widest audience and which avoid political controversy
- Balancing the infrastructure needs of states and the federal government
- Identifying the national resources that will drive the national program forward
- Immediately directing most needed resources so that a national infrastructure recovery program does not have a number of false starts and get bogged down in inertia
- The National Treasury providing policy, guidance, and incentives on how the $ 1 Trillion dollars will be raised and what inducements will be offered to private investors to mobilize the funds that will address the current enormous funding gap
- Reviewing and revising procurement guidelines that are not conducive to collaborations between the public and private sectors
- Building the capacity of the public sector to identify viable projects and the capacity of the private sector to build them
- Developing and embracing alternative financial models that will unlock the funding and financing resources that are needed for the national infrastructure program
- Planning to maintain and sustainably operate new infrastructure that is built. It serves no purpose to build new infrastructure and then let it fall apart.
The question that should be on everyone’s lips is – Are we ready and are we able? Time will tell, but we cannot delay any further. If we want new jobs, we need to set the structures in place that will create economic opportunity and growth. These critically are private sector investment and human capital development. Whether we will be able to do this only with American jobs, American products, and American investment remains to be seen. There is little doubt that American industry is ready to try.
If you want to see where your community could be in 20 years time – if you are not proactive in maintaining existing infrastructure and planning new sustainable infrastructure take a look at the “Abandoned” series on the Viceland TV channel.