The demand for civil engineers only figures to grow in 2023 as the funding from recent federal legislation continues to green-light more infrastructure projects.

And ASCE continues to stand at the forefront of those funding conversations, connecting advocacy and implementation.

The Public Policy and Practice Committee updated the ASCE Board of Direction during its quarterly meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jan. 22, highlighting recent progress and the upcoming year’s government relations activities.

“ASCE is at a critical crossroads,” said ASCE President Maria Lehman. “After over two decades of advocacy to increase federal funding for all Infrastructure Report Card categories, we received a large boost in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. But according to the shortfall numbers in ASCE’s Failure to Act report, the new funding is less than half of what is needed over the next five years.

“So, it is a good start. That means we need to have a laser focus on not just delivering projects right but also doing the right projects.”

The list of recent ASCE legislative successes is long:

  • FY23 Omnibus Spending Bill – among many investments, allots the most money in any single fiscal year for the Department of Transportation.
  • Inflation Reduction Act – $369 billion investment in energy security and climate change.
  • CHIPS and Science Act – significant boost to the research that can make infrastructure more resilient and cost-effective.
  • Water Resources Development Act – five-year reauthorization of National Levee Safety Program and the establishment of a National Low-Head Dam Inventory.
  • FLOODS Act – establishes a National Integrated Flood Information system to better predict storms.

Of course, these all follow the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of November 2021. ASCE has been focused on implementation in the year-plus since. The Public Policy and Practice Committee highlighted ASCE’sInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Implementation Resource Center for members to access funding opportunities and updates about new grants and projects, as well as the new interactive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Project Map that tracks where IIJA-funded projects are planned and underway.

“I am especially proud of ASCE's public policy group in providing the resources for our members to help them understand the impacts these recent legislation wins will have on their daily lives,” Lehman said. “The monthly updates on BIL implementation provide our members with the tools to help inform their agencies, clients, and educational institutions on what financial and regulatory strategies they need to develop in order to move into the future effectively and efficiently.”

ASCE members return to Capitol Hill, March 1-3, for a fully in-person Legislative Fly-In, meeting with policymakers to further discuss funding implementation issues and advocate for infrastructure investment.

“I truly believe with every fiber of my being that what we do in the next five years will set the glide path for the next 30 to 40 years,” Lehman said. “So it is a critical time for our profession – we need to step it up.”

More board meeting highlights

On second reading, the board voted to approve an amendment to the bylaws that modifies the criteria for life membership beginning Jan. 1, 2028, for the 2028 membership year. All current life members and those who become life members prior to 2028 will be known as legacy life members and maintain their existing benefits.

The Task Committee on Life Members worked on finding ways to continue integrating life members into ASCE activities, while giving them ways to contribute, financially or through mentoring.

The new bylaws establish that anyone earning life member status in 2028 or later must have 40 years of dues-paying experience. They will be given the option of paying 50% dues to retain full-member status or can enjoy non-voting member status free of charge. Everyone will be able to maintain their ASCE life insurance and section and branch participation regardless of their life member status.

“We had an extensive committee effort with two separate life member surveys,” Lehman said. “We listened to the feedback to come up with a sensible strategy with a reasonable implementation timeline.”

The board also voted to support a Society-wide component of the ASCE Innovation Contest. This year’s contest challenges student members to develop engineering innovations around the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This spring’s student symposia will host various Innovation Contest competitions and symposium winning teams will advance to the championship finals this fall at the ASCE 2023 Convention in Chicago.

The Board also approved governing document amendments to create a new Committee on Infrastructure Risk Management, which will provide a platform for the interdisciplinary sharing of risk management knowledge and research on a holistic ASCE level. The new CIRM will be a constituent committee of the Committee on Technical Advancement, which will now join each of the Institutes with voting representation on the Technical Region Board of Governors.

Among the various updates on the meeting agenda, the board heard from the Board Strategic Advisory Committee and its Strategic Plan Implementation Subcommittee.

The board voted last October to approve a new strategic plan for the Society. The committee team reported to the board that its implementation strategy is focused on better alignment between ASCE programs and budget, as well as operational initiatives to drive growth and efficiency. BSAC also updated the board on its focus on workforce development as an emerging strategic issue.

“Everything around us changed during the pandemic,” Lehman said. “So it was critical for ASCE to update our strategic plan to have strategic shifts in where we are addressing new concerns by aligning our staff and volunteers at all levels to row together.

“The intent behind having the board approve the new plan last October – after the committee’s record-setting seven months to develop the plan – was to have implementation start immediately so that our 2024 budget can incorporate and reflect those changes.”