ASCE Responds to the I-35W Bridge Collapse

In response to the catastrophic I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, ASCE is playing a significant and proactive role in the review and analysis of one of our nation's tragic infrastructure disasters. Shortly after the collapse occurred, ASCE immediately began to provide technical and authoritative information to the media and has developed a dedicated area on the ASCE website to providing further resources and related information. The website will continue to evolve over the coming days and should serve as an excellent resource to keep members up to date and help in answering any general questions that may be received. ASCE members can take pride in knowing that ASCE and the civil engineering profession continue to play such a key role in understanding and responding to natural and man-made disasters and in improving the resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The future competitiveness of the infrastructure system presents an engineering leadership challenge

The USA’s infrastructure systems have deteriorated to the point where this country’s future economic competitiveness is in jeopardy and our elected officials, who are entrusted with safeguarding our nation’s future, have ignored the warnings. Our elected officials’ failure to maintain and improve upon the system inherited from the prior generation can be traced to a lack of political will, the influence of special interest groups, the absence of market-based decision making, and – most specifically and significantly – the use of earmarks, otherwise known as pork barrel politics. Reversing or even arresting the decline of infrastructure systems will require creative solutions and visionary leadership from the engineering community.

In this context, there are two readily-apparent ways for engineers to effect change. First, engineers need to position themselves better by seeking public office, which would provide them with proximity and access to the legislative process. Second, in order to help Congress to better understand technology transfers and complex scientific principles before implementing new policies, the engineering discipline should actively recruit and pitch its professionals for placement on lawmaker and committee staffs. This second tactic is likely to require a cultural shift in the engineering profession. Talented engineers will not readily pursue alternative but important career paths if they think that their work will be dismissed or devalued by the profession, including its societies and licensing boards. Likewise, lawmakers and committees are unlikely to understand the benefits of having engineers on their staffs and deferring to their judgment on important social issues without a significant public relations campaign. The stakes are high enough, however, that extreme measures are necessary.

15 comments:

Eva Lerner-Lam, M.ASCE, F.ITE said...

SEBUTLER: For starters, it would be helpful if we could see some of the white papers you've written on issues related to civil engineering and social policy. Thanks in advance for posting them here, and thanks for your insights and your important "call to arms" for CE's.

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