Are you a pessimist or an optimist?
Winston Churchill once said "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
As members of InfraGard, we all know about the importance of infrastructure. It isn't a partisan issue. It's personal. No matter where you live, your political leanings, your age, your education, if you drive a car or a truck or take the bus or a bicycle, infrastructure has a profound impact on your daily life. We all must get around. We all need lights to come on and water to come out of the tap.
But our infrastructure doesn't exist in isolation. Infrastructure - literally - unites the metropolitan Washington region and the United States of America. No state, city, or county can alone tackle the enormous and growing backlog of projects of regional and national importance. A 2015 report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments conservatively estimated that the region was facing a funding gap of $58 billion in the next 15 years, including over $20 billion each for transportation and water infrastructure, and more than $5 billion for energy infrastructure.
Too much of our nation's infrastructure is undermaintained, too old, and over capacity. We are being pennywise and pound foolish when we put a net under a bridge to catch falling concrete instead of rebuilding the aging bridge in the first place. Our airplanes still navigate using WWII-era air-traffic control systems, and our ports struggle to keep up with an economy that increasingly demands just-in-time deliveries to compete in the global economy. Aged and overstretched drinking water and wastewater systems have contributed to weeks-long boil-water advisories and business shutdowns in Texas and Ohio.
That's the alarm bell and a pessimist might only see trouble. But I like to think of InfraGard members as optimists - we see the "opportunity in every difficulty" - and in this case, I think there is opportunity for InfraGardNCR to be part of the solution. How? Three things immediately come to mind:
Education and Outreach: Our chapter is made up of infrastructure experts representing all sectors. Through webinars, workshops, and other events, we increase public awareness of threats to infrastructure, the infrastructure needs in the region, and the costs of implementing these needs. Through these and other means, InfraGardNCR can also help inform local leaders, policy makers and the public about the importance of making infrastructure a priority.
Sharing Best Practices: Our chapter excels at sharing infrastructure protection best practices regionally and nationally. We can continue and expand our efforts to coordinate with regional entities and with experts across the United States to increase the sharing of infrastructure protection best practices and effective models for mitigating threats.
Advocacy: As members of InfraGardNCR, we are in a good position to advocate for essential infrastructure investments, creation of partnerships, and champion the actions required to close the infrastructure funding gaps in the metropolitan Washington region.
Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers issues its Infrastructure Report Card, giving the nation's aviation systems, roads, drinking and wastewater, ports and much more near-failing grades. As InfraGard members, I think we should embrace the challenge and be part of the infrastructure solution. Education and outreach, sharing best practices, and advocacy are just three examples of things we can or are doing.
As you think about the challenges facing the region's infrastructure, what else could we be doing as a chapter to promote innovative policies, technologies, investments and other solutions to the challenges facing our critical infrastructure? Please reach out to the Board or chapter Sector Chiefs and share your thoughts - let's work together and find opportunities to address the difficult threats to our region's infrastructure.
With best regards,