Maintaining Infrastructure Is Crucial To National Security

Posted on Sat 09/13/2008 by



Bruce Martin, MPP

Here’s the deal!

Here’s what the principal candidates for President of the United States need to know before the election:

Entropy is the condition which all matter goes towards. Without maintenance efforts, along with investments in capital and energy (i.e. work by all able citizens), this society’s production capabilities will decline and we will progress towards disorder.

Development and repair of this nation’s infrastructure – public and quasi-public utilities and facilities such as roads, bridges, sewers, sewer plants, water lines, power lines, port facilities, depots, etc. – all of which are needed for delivery of our vital goods and services, is a vital first step. Since our infrastructure is our first line of our domestic defense, particularly at the local levels, we cannot rely on foreign governments or institutions to do the job for us.

This came to the forefront seven years ago. On September 11th and September 12th, 2001, the leaders of our nation needed to identify and answer as quickly as possible: What is “critical infrastructure and how is it to be protected?” Relative to that protection, major “yes/no” decisions were required. Government staff employees prepared countless models and spreadsheets for the nation’s decision makers, who then made the call to mobilize forces as required. (The lessons that were learned during that exercise led to the creation of a 12-member National Infrastructure Command, which examines all aspects of the nation’s hard infrastructure.) Our presidential candidates must engage in an identical, long-range exercise.

For example, many dozens of the more than 300 maritime ports within our borders have significant repair needs that are not being addressed. While many security standards have been enhanced since the “Attacks on America,” there has not been a corresponding expression of public concern to make those vital repairs a national priority. Since the maritime system is one that is vulnerable to exploitation and disruption, this lack of attention to improving our port infrastructure has caused a continuation of our struggle to recover momentum since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Precluding a catastrophic incident at any of our maritime ports within the United States requires an equal emphasis on security measures, training and awareness. It also requires significant investment towards improved intermodal transportation (truck and rail) as well as pre-positioning of basic equipment and knowledge of its use.

Currently, national news headlines are concentrating on the national mortgage crisis and failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet, there are countless other examples of critical things which have not been properly addressed, which in many cases are worse than those in third-world countries. These include:

* The nation’s electrical grid (recall the East coast blackout)
* Thousands of bridges (recall the Minneapolis bridge collapse)
* School buildings
* Roadways
* Railways

In this critical situation, blaming lack of financial resources will be unacceptable. The financial cost of inaction relative to improvement of this nation’s infrastructure far outweighs the direct costs of doing so. Methods must be discussed by all of our decision makers on how to find the needed capital for investment and how to make this happen.

Claims of lack of sufficient capital for lifting the nation out of an economic depression were rampant on December 6, 1941. Yet on December 8, 1941, we began the greatest military build-up ever witnessed by mankind.

Likewise, on September 12, 2001, this nation was able to plan and locate the funding to fight the Global War on Terror on two fronts, and to build an entirely new cabinet level department whose sole focus was to protect the homeland. Our ability to gear up towards the “Arsenal for Democracy” and to engage in a complete paradigm shift relative to homeland security required those with the political vision and will to stand up and say “We will make this happen!”


America already has the historical blueprint for an effective policy for infrastructure repair. The great projects that have not been properly cared for were originally built in the 1930s through President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Projects Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, etc., all of which improved the quality of life for citizens in this country. Had these projects not preceded our entry into WWII, it is doubtful that we would have been successful in producing that “Arsenal for Democracy” that won the war.

A reconstituted policy of mandatory national service will fulfill several current critical needs in this society, including:

* Provide important economic stimulus
* Provide for the repair of critical infrastructure
* Provide job training and building of important life skills for at-risk youth
* Improve the nation’s overall production capabilities

Relative to building of our infrastructure: This nation did it before and can do it again. All that is required is someone with the political will to make it happen. Contributing Editor Bruce C. Martin, MPP, is the commander for the Marina (California) Police Department Support Services Division and a professional firefighter.

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