Washington Insight

Critical infrastructure protection a core concern for lawmakers

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Relations

The horrific and tragic events of September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania united a grief-stricken nation. They prompted a heroic response effort involving thousands of rescue workers, law enforcement personnel, public works officials, investigators, volunteers and many other public officials and private citizens who stepped forward to offer their assistance and support.

In Washington, Congress and the President reacted with bipartisan resolve to address the crisis, which in an instant had rendered partisan disputes over unresolved legislative business all but silenced for the time. The situation demanded immediate and undivided attention to national security, response, recovery and the economy.

The policy agenda in Washington will be affected profoundly for some time to come by the attacks on New York and the nation's capital. Infrastructure investment, energy, defense, education and health care had been issues which prior to September 11 were being debated in a policy environment defined by the nation's slowing economy and reports showing the loss of the federal budget surplus. Those conditions are not expected to reverse in the near term, but instead will now coexist within a policy environment where security concerns have reached an unprecedented level of importance.

Local infrastructure and its security will factor as a core component within the policy debates shaped by the new concerns and political conditions in Washington. Already, a renewed examination and assessment of the vulnerability of the nation's critical infrastructure is currently underway, including its water systems, transportation network-both surface and air-its utilities, nuclear power plants, oil refineries, financial and communications networks and others.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) announced that they have elevated a working group on terrorism to subcommittee status within the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The subcommittee will be responsible for identifying weaknesses in the nation's critical infrastructure and finding ways to strengthen it.

President Bush, in addition, announced the creation of the Office of Homeland Security, to be directed by Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Ridge, which will be charged with developing a strategy for strengthening preparedness. APWA sent a letter to Governor Ridge pledging APWA's support and assistance in those efforts.

In addition to these initiatives, numerous hearings on a range of issues affecting infrastructure security, response and preparedness are underway or planned in Congress. Legislation was introduced in the weeks following the attacks to address emergency preparedness needs and airport security. In addition, bills providing $40 billion in emergency-relief funding and a separate legislative package providing airline stabilization were signed into law.

When lawmakers reconvene for the next session of Congress in early 2002, the security of the nation's infrastructure and its needs will continue to be a significant issue.

APWA public policy and advocacy priorities for 2001-2002

Heather A. McTavish, Government Relations Coordinator

During the 2001 Congress in Philadelphia, the Board of Directors adopted the following public policy and advocacy priorities for 2001-2002 upon recommendation by the Government Affairs Committee. Serving as the umbrella to the specific policy priorities are three core principles guiding APWA's legislative activity:

1) Support for adequate investment in public infrastructure.
2) Respect for local authority.
3) Reasonable regulations and protection from unfunded mandates.

The following legislative and regulatory priorities will serve as APWA's primary advocacy objectives for the next year. These objectives will guide APWA's advocacy efforts as we continue to influence and reach out to policymakers.

Full-funding for Transportation Programs Objective: Increase federal investment in transportation infrastructure and programs; protect the integrity of transportation trust funds and the framework of TEA-21.

TEA 21 Implementation Objective: Support the full and timely implementation of TEA-21.

Clean Water Funding Objective: Increase the federal investment in clean water infrastructure.

Comprehensive Stormwater Management and Funding Objectives: Support solutions that promote a comprehensive approach to stormwater management that recognizes the quality of life benefits associated with such actions. Support funding for the research pilot projects that support the development of best management practices.

Federal Emergency Relief Funding Objective: Achieve increased funding for local agencies, more rapid disbursement of funding and quicker response in pre- and post-disaster events.

Air Quality Standards Objective: Support solutions that protect air quality and promote the efficient and cost-effective delivery of public works services.

Local Control of Public Rights-of-Way Objective: Oppose preemption of local control over Public Rights-of-Way.