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How ASCE Develops Policies

Why does ASCE make policies? 

In order to fulfill the commitments of its public policy mission, the Board of Direction of ASCE established procedures for its members to develop a consensus on professional, technical and educational issues of concern to the civil engineering community.  Policy documents produced by this process are the basis for any statements made on behalf of the Society to government bodies such as Congress and federal regulatory agencies, media and to the public.

Who oversees the policy development process? 

The Public Committee (PPC) acts as the oversight body on the procedural aspects of the policy development process, and is responsible for coordinating proposed Policy Statements and Resolutions from the originators to the Board of Direction. The PRC must specifically:

  • coordinate and expedite the preparation of proposed policies to be presented to the Board for adoption; and,
  • consider proposed policies originated by the various segments of the Society, elicit by appropriate referrals the comments of correlative interests within the Society, review for clarity and conciseness, and compare with established policies to avoid inconsistency and redundancy; and
  • regularly review the policies of the Society and stimulate reviews by other groups within the Society to insure that policies are current and meaningful.

Along with the ASCE Government Relations staff, PPC will make every effort to ensure that every appropriate component of the Society has an opportunity to comment on proposed policy documents. However, PRC must balance the desire to provide an opportunity for comment with the need for timely consideration of an issue.


What is a policy document? 

A policy document must be written in one of two standard formats: a policy statement or a resolution.  Prior to developing a new proposal, members should examine existing policies to determine whether a new policy document is needed, whether it conflicts with existing documents, and whether it is an issue of broad concern to civil engineers.  The purpose of the document and the intended length of its life will determine which of the three formats should be followed:  

  • A policy statement is a broad overview of policy on a topic of continuing concern to the civil engineering profession.  The nature of the issue usually is one that will not change materially during a three-year period.  A policy statement should include a clear definition of the policy, an analysis of the issue that led to the development of the policy statement, and a rationale for involvement of the Society in the issue.
  • A resolution is a short term or interim position of the Society.  It is intended to respond to an immediate concern or a specific event for a time frame of not longer than one year.  It should include one or more clauses that outline the details of the issue and the reasons for concern of the Society, and one or more "resolved" clauses which state the specific position of ASCE on the topic.


Who develops the policies?

The Board of Direction has established policy committees that report to the Board through the PRC.  The committees are composed of at least five members, appointed by the President, who have professional expertise relative to public policy issues of national concern to the civil engineering profession.  These committees are the:

  • Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee
  • Engineering Practice Policy Committee
  • Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee
  • Transportation Policy Committee  

In addition to policy committees, individual members, district councils, professional, educational, or technical divisions, directors and national officers may and should be participants in the policy development process.  Along with the ASCE staff, PRC will make every effort to ensure that every appropriate component of the Society has an opportunity to comment on proposed policy documents.  However, the PRC must balance the desire to provide an opportunity for comment with the need for timely consideration of an issue.

How are policies approved? 

After approval by the originating committee, the proposed policy documents are sent to the PRC.  The PPC makes the determination whether a proposed Policy Statement or Resolution should be presented to the Board of Direction.   

The Board of Direction may reject the policy proposal, remand the proposal to the originating entity for further work, approve the substance of the proposal as official policy while returning it to the PRC for further editorial review, or approve the proposal as presented.  The Board of Direction has independent authority over the policy process and may rescind any existing Policy Statement or Resolution. 

 An important function of the PPC is the ongoing reassessment of existing Policy Statements and Resolutions on 3 year and 1 year cycles respectively.  The PRC routinely refers policy documents to the committee of origin for review of the continued relevance of the subject and for recommendation for possible recision, revision, clarification, or incorporation into a new policy proposal.  This review process enables the Society to respond to the changing needs of the profession in a timely manner. 

Occasionally a pending issue of vital importance requires a response or public statement by the Society on short notice.  The PPC may accelerate the review and approval process by submitting the approved policy statement to the Executive Committee of the Board which has authority to act when the full Board is not in session.  Executive Committee actions must be ratified by the full Board at its next meeting.


What happens to policies after they're approved? 

The Government Relations Department maintains a permanent file of all ASCE policy documents.  Full texts of all policy documents are also posted to the ASCE Web Page. 

Who uses the policies? 

The Government Relations staff monitors all areas of public affairs in which the Society might appropriately issue statements or positions.  When an opportunity arises for the Society to present the professional and technical judgment of its members, the staff refers to the Society's official policy documents for guidance.  All statements, testimony, and submissions made on behalf of the Society must be consistent with Board approved policies.   

The Government Relations staff is guided in these activities by the Public Policy Committee (PPC), which is also responsible for coordinating the government affairs activities of national significance to members of the profession.  The Committee also develops an annual priority issues agenda, which is submitted to the Board for adoption each year.