President Donald Trump held a forum this past week to discuss how he plans to implement one of his central campaign promises, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Here are some of the top headlines that came from that event:
Excerpt: “President Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday to cut red tape to speed up approval of infrastructure projects and said his overhaul could top $1 trillion on roads, tunnels and bridges, one of his 2016 election campaign promises.”
Excerpt: “With legislation overhauling taxes and health care on an uncertain path, President Donald Trump returned to the familiar. Trump brought 52 business leaders from New York City to the White House Tuesday to talk about another favorite campaign issue — infrastructure and economic growth.”
Excerpt: “In an interview with The New York Times, Trump said he may use infrastructure as a sweetener because it is ‘so popular’ among lawmakers, especially among Democrats, who Trump referred to as “desperate for infrastructure.” “I may put it in with health care. I may put it in with something else because it’s a very popular thing,” Trump said. “I’m thinking about putting it with another bill. Could be health care, could be something else. Could be tax reform.”
Democratic support for Trump’s infrastructure plan also depends on the details of the package, which have begun to take shape in recent weeks. The $1 trillion proposal will likely have $200 billion to $300 billion in direct federal funding, according to The Times, with the rest of the investment financed by tax credits.”
Kushner Will Help Lead the Effort
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, will help shape the infrastructure package as part of his role as the leader of the new Office of American Innovation.
Also, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are helping to spearhead the infrastructure effort.
According to CNBC, “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the package would include not just roads and bridges, but also energy and water infrastructure as well. She also said it could possibly incorporate broadband and veterans' hospitals — two areas on which Kushner's office has said it intends to focus. Chao said the infrastructure proposal will be announced later this year.”
"The infrastructure we all grew up with is aging," she said during a speech celebrating the department's 50th anniversary. "Technology — the great disruptor — is creating a new type of transport based on digital — not human— command and control."
What’s Included? More Technology, Please
Forbes magazine focused on why the president’s infrastructure plan needs regulatory technology reform to gain bipartisan support. Here’s an excerpt:
Most regulations have, at best, a very good reason for existing, or at worst, a powerful constituency that will fight tooth and nail for their continued existence. On the other hand, utilizing technology to help government regulatory processes work more efficiently is something both sides can more easily agree upon. Case in point, it’s an issue Newt Gingrich — one of the president’s biggest supporters — and Lt. Governor of California Gavin Newsom — one of his most vocal opponents — have both supported.
Innovative cities and counties are utilizing modern cloud-based technology to reduce permitting and inspection delays, replacing stacks of paperwork, lines at City Hall, and busy signals, with a customer experience that resembles Amazon. They also have apps that offer real-time updates on a permit review or inspection schedule. These innovations save time, improve transparency and produce dramatic cost savings. They also allow regulators to actually focus on their missions — like public safety, infrastructure planning, security and environmental protection — rather than administrative drudgery. …
“Cut the red tape!” is a frequent battle cry of those hoping to release pent-up economic activity. While Trump and Congress will undoubtedly spend time scrutinizing regulations themselves, they should start by looking to the underlying technology we use to administer our regulations. Important work has already been done to make government more efficient, user-friendly, transparent and secure — we know it’s needed, and we’ve got bipartisan consensus on it.
Meanwhile, an ABC News report focused on how an air traffic control system that relies on GPS rather than radar would shorten flights and save on jet fuel, which could help consumers. Other technology items on the infrastructure list include upgrades to the power grid in order to save up to 20 percent of electricity transmission.
The Toledo Blade focused on a wider definition of infrastructure as well as future public-private partnership opportunities within President Trump’s potential infrastructure plan:
“Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, told the audience that the administration is working with “the broadest interpretation of infrastructure” and made clear that he expects many projects to be financed through public-private partnerships — or just private investments, in some cases.
Cohn said modernizing the country’s air traffic control system is “probably the single most exciting thing we can do.”
He called the current configuration “embarrassing,” saying a shift from the current land-based radar system to a GPS-based system would be far more efficient, creating quicker and more direct routes that save airplane fuel. He said updating the country’s “old, antiquated” power grid is another priority.
Inside Sources covered a speech given by Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The Republican Commissioner Pai argued that funds for deploying high-speed Internet infrastructure should be included in the $1 trillion initiative to rebuild bridges, roads, and other crumbling infrastructure across U.S. during his first major policy speech at Carnegie Mellon University Wednesday.
“In the digital age, I believe our wired and wireless broadband networks are core components of our nation’s infrastructure,” Pai told attendees. “That’s why my position is clear: If Congress moves forward with a major infrastructure package, broadband should be included.”
Last, but certainly not least, there are several critics of the president’s infrastructure plans who think the entire plan will be a disaster. Jake Novak argues at CNBC.com that: “Its three explicit and implicit goals for the Trump team, boosting the economy, improving our network of roads, bridges and airports, and building a virtual bridge to the Democrats will all fail and fail dramatically. And we know this because they always do. …”
Any discussion of infrastructure, especially rebuilding critical technology infrastructure like transportation and the power grid, must contain the appropriate cybersecurity protections up front. While cyber is not an explicit part of these infrastructure plans, it should be.
As stated many times over the past few years, hacking critical infrastructure is becoming more frequent and destructive, and billions of new dollars being spent must also address the changing world we live in.
Overall, I am encouraged by these discussions and the focus on infrastructure. This topic remains a rare bipartisan initiative that has an excellent chance of being enacted, and I am hopeful that the shovels are ready.
Get ready to start digging.