Outdated infrastructure poses national security risk.

Author:Buzby, Mark H.
 
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President-elect Donald J. Trump has rightfully brought infrastructure modernization to the top of our national to-do list. While many Americans focus on the economic benefits of enhancing our infrastructure, there is another important advantage: our enhanced national security.

Mr. Trump's timing could not be better. America's infrastructure, the physical foundation of our society, must be properly maintained and continuously modernized.

Visible transportation-related infrastructure includes highways, bridges, airports, seaports, and rail systems. But equally important--though less-visible--"enabler infrastructure" includes petroleum and natural gas pipeline distribution systems, power generation and distribution networks, water systems and our air traffic control grid, among many others.

Much like the visible ones, these enablers require the immediate attention of policymakers.

Unfortunately, the modernization of many segments of our infrastructure has been a low priority over the years. As a result, some of it has reached the end of its useful life and is serving on borrowed time. As that time runs out, these systems are failing and lives are in danger.

Looking specifically at transportation infrastructure, we depend on it to quickly mobilize assets and respond within our borders to address natural and manmade disasters in peacetime. We also need it in order to move our armed forces and material from garrisons around the country to air and sea ports of embarkation in times of conflict. Any plan to rectify the situation must be holistic.

For example, rebuilding and modernizing airports will be of limited value without also addressing our aging and increasingly overwhelmed air traffic control system. We have the safest airspace in the world, but it is not the most efficient.

Unnecessary travel delays in the United States cost customers and our economy $30 billion annually. These delays are the direct result of system-wide inefficiencies resulting from the use of outdated, WWII-era radar technology.

Policymakers should consider reform that establishes a federally chartered, nonprofit organization to modernize the system funded by user-fees.

Another example is maritime security. Our country is a maritime nation: over 90 percent of all goods consumed enter our nation through sea ports.

Surprisingly, 98 percent of that cargo is carried in ships flying foreign flags--only 2 percent arrives in the 78 remaining ships still trading internationally...

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