Every day Americans commute to work, use the internet, turn on a light bulb, cross a vast network of bridges, take a shower, watch television, and cook their food. Little if any thought is given to the vast infrastructure that makes all of these activities, and much more, possible. Unknown to most Americans is the fact that the United States’ infrastructure is crumbling, and subsequently one of the greatest threats to our national security is manifesting from within our own borders.
America’s economy and national security are closely related; what is often overlooked is the fact that America’s infrastructure is perhaps the most common tie between the two. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act. In part, the Act provided for the Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways, which, in a post-WWII era, Congress designed primarily for defense of the homeland through a means to quickly move military assets across State lines. An inevitable byproduct of this military strategy was the boost to the American economy. For the first time in United State history, goods could be transported in high volume at a fast pace up and down coasts and across the country without restriction to railways.
To avoid the risk of turning a blog post into a dissertation, it should obviously follow that the construction of major bridges, dams, pipelines, telecommunications wires, electrical wires, fiber optics, etc., also greatly benefit both national security and the economy. Indeed, without the vast hardware and software infrastructure that supports the United States, we are left vulnerable to hostile forces and unable to sustain, let alone grow, our own economy.
So what happened? Why are America’s industries, local, state, and Federal government bodies, not up-keeping and updating our crumbling infrastructure? One answer may lie within the old proverb: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. However, as we have seen and continue to see more frequently, waiting for things to break before they are fixed does nothing to help prevent the occurrence of looming infrastructure disasters. Another large deterrent to acting may come from the enormous investment that updating America’s infrastructure presents. Still, any intelligent investor can see that a failure to invest in this critical asset will yield a greater cost to our economy and national security interests down the road.
So how does this imperative national security issue relate to the law, and what might lawmakers do to help solve the issue? Greater regulation is not the answer. More often than not, with respect to this issue, greater regulation leads to greater costs with little to no return for private contractors – which may, in turn, lead to cutting corners to save cost. Instead, legislation that incentivizes investment in infrastructure may spark the spirit of industrial innovation that built the existing American infrastructure we see today.
The military need for a strong infrastructure has not decreased from the days of President Eisenhower. If anything, our military requires a state-of-the-art network of highways, bridges, power supplies, and fiber optic cables, now more than ever. Likewise, our economy has grown entirely dependent on the infrastructure as it exists today. A competitive marketplace fueled with tax breaks and other legislative incentives would, in the short term, boost the struggling American economy. In the long term, it would streamline commerce, enhance safety, and open up a fertile ground for technological innovation that would meet numerous unmet needs.
The idea of ensuring a nation’s security through investment in its infrastructure dates back to the beginning of human civilization. Infrastructure is America’s backbone, and investing in structural security is not a choice for a nation that prides itself as the model for all others. Indeed, how can the United States sustain its national standing if its airports resemble third world countries? Wake up America, its time to retool and rebuild!
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