Always ready with a powerful turn of phrase, ASCE President Maria Lehman dropped a particularly memorable line at the ASCE Board of Direction meeting, May 26.
“We’re beating a path from Reston to the White House,” Lehman said. “And we’re not the ones asking for the meetings. They’re asking us.”
Such is the situation this year as ASCE continues to exert influence on infrastructure investment and the rollout of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, often referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law.
“Our work on the ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure over the past 25 years has raised our profile with both policymakers and the media as the trusted advisor for all things infrastructure,” Lehman said. “We are seen as the thought leaders in quantifying the problem and the accelerant for innovation to serve tomorrow's needs while protecting public health and safety.
“Everyone wants to get it right. They want honest feedback on how to do better; whether that is workforce development, streamlining permitting and the federal process, or how to prioritize project funds to meet the greatest needs.”
The board received an update at last week’s meeting detailing the ASCE work with policymakers – both federal and local – and all those White House meetings Lehman referenced. Recent events include the White House Summit on Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change, the White House Summit on the National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology, the ASCE Standards Briefing for the Federal Climate Adaptation Plan Working Group, and the White House Made in America office meeting.
“There is also a long list of congressional committee staff who have been asking for direct input from ASCE,” Lehman said. “The success, I think, is owed to our very talented volunteers and staff who have been very vocal in the press, speaking on the conditions of our aging infrastructure, the needs, and how to rise to the challenge.
“Some of it also is about the old adage that the world is run by those who show up. Well, we have been showing up with more people and more energy than ever before.”
Other board meeting highlights
Former ASCE President K.N. Gunalan updated the board on continued collaboration with the United Engineering Foundation.
The board also heard from the Board Strategic Advisory Committee and its Subcommittee on Strategic Alignment as they continue to roll out the Society’s new strategic plan.
The Industry Leaders Council returned to update on the various ILC-recommended climate efforts that the board approved last summer. Those include the ASCE Climate Impacts Workshop for Standard and Code Development, partnering with FEMA, NOAA, and NIST to further integrate climate data into ASCE standards, the new ASCE Resilience Toolkit, and Supplement 2 for ASCE/SEI 7-22: Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures, which outlines new flood provisions that protect against 500-year storms.
“If we as a profession are planning for the next 50 to 100 years, we have to be the point of the spear for what will be,” Lehman said. “Especially since many of the standards that infrastructure developers follow are ASCE standards.
“So we need to step up our game as professionals to have better models as to what we may see, better applied research on how to adapt in a socially responsible and cost-effective manner, and more detailed and widely adopted standards to protect public safety while providing the economic foundation required for an equitable future for all.”