With blistering speed out of the starting gate, the Obama Team is off and running.  While just beginning its running stride for the next four years, they’re already using and supercharging the very communications apparatus that took an upstart, outsider campaign operating in Chicago to occupying the Oval Office and all of its bully pulpit powers.

In case you haven’t seen it, the entire White House website as been given an overhaul and while there are a few kinks to be worked out (i.e., registering for email updates), they’re off to a good start in detailing their priorities and the agenda they have in mind for the next four years.

While some of the presented agenda details aren’t new or groundbreaking to anyone who has followed the Transition closely, the items listed under ‘Homeland Security’ are worth reviewing.

There may be differences in their approach, each of the detailed areas were items that were on the Bush Administration’s agenda – many of which a good solid start is available as a foundation for the new Administration to build upon.  Several of them are certainly of the ‘Mom and Apple Pie’ variety (Improve Airline Security; Secure Our Chemical Plants; Safeguard Public Transportation, etc.) – all items that we can all agree upon as good things that deserve attention and resources.

What I found most promising on the new Administration’s posted agenda for Homeland Security was its section, “Modernize America’s Aging Infrastructure.”  It details three priority areas – Build in Security; Create a National Reinvestment Bank; and, Invest in Critical Infrastructure Projects.

None of these points are new (they were part of various Obama’s Campaign documents and released Transition Team materials) but the fact they are listed on the new White House website on DAY ONE of the Obama Administration gives me hope that they will apply energy to their rhetoric to make these points a reality.

Under these three areas, the Obama Team is proposing a radical departure to how we as a nation have long decided, invested and designed our nation’s infrastructure.

For too long we have relied on traditional paradigms when it comes to making infrastructure decisions.  Politics, pork barrel projects, outdated and arcane funding formulas and probably Magic 8 Balls have all been employed to make these decisions for the past several decades.

In the wake of 9/11, devastating hurricanes, floods and fires, power blackouts, collapsing bridges and overcapacitizing just about every infrastructure we have in this country, it is time to take a new hard look at what we fund; how we do it and the criteria that makes these decisions sound.  As such, the new Administration’s three points on this major issue deserve serious and immediate consideration.

In the coming days and weeks, the Congress is going to debate an estimated $850 billion spending package, much of it dedicated to starting shovel-ready infrastructure projects around the United States to create jobs and get the economy moving again.  While I shudder at that spending figure and the fact that it is “imaginary money” (it doesn’t really exist but we’re going to spend it any way), our need for infrastructure investment is real and necessary.

As a taxpayer I’m willing to take a deep breath and bite the bullet on an expenditure such as this, but before we give a collective thumbs up on this type of spending package, we need to seriously consider how these infrastructure projects are selected and designed for national, regional and local resilience.

Our new President spoke in his Inaugural Address about the need for “hard choices” and “a new era of responsibility.”

He’s right and here’s a great way to start.  Before we commit to spending $850 billion or any other amount of billion dollar packages for our nation’s infrastructure we need to see “risk” and “resilience” as part of our investment decisions.

As CNN and other media outlets have already revealed, some of the submitted shovel-ready infrastructure project lists offered by various Mayors, Governors and other associations have included such meritorious investments as upgrades to a zoo’s polar bear exhibit as well as a Minor League Baseball Hall of Fame.  With all due respect to great minor league baseball players of yesteryear and the polar bears (who I believe are an endangered species and worthy of protections), these are not representative examples of “new era of responsibility.”  Rather, it’s more of the same old, same old and it is time for this to CHANGE as well.

The Obama Administration has laid out three key points on modernizing our aging infrastructure.  With any luck, I hope we see these points applied in the weeks ahead because in the end it’s you and I that will be stuck with the bill.

Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to see a bill that had some wisdom and merit to its expenditures?

That would be CHANGE I could believe in and get behind.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More