Congress knows this, too. Moving from conception, to prospectus, to congressional approval often takes as much as three years. Design, Bid and Award can take another two years. And then, there's the actual time required for construction. No wonder the average timeframe for a government building project is seven, long, costly years.
President Obama and his advisors do not understand the government procurement process, or the government construction process, and learned nothing from the supposed, “Shovel Ready” projects sold as part of the stimulus bill. A quick review of the construction projects, once touted by President Obama, will show that most are still tied up in nightmarish, regulatory processes, scoring rules, prospectuses, approvals, assessments, FONSIs (Finding of No Significant Impact) and Permitting.
Had Obama really wanted to push infrastructure projects, he could have eliminated or reduced any or all of the many different, bureaucratic hurdles that a building project must navigate. All sorts of infrastructure projects could be made “Shovel Ready” if a dedicated leadership were willing to curtail excessive bureaucratic reviews.
The simple fact is that federal building projects need regulatory reform to get moving. For example, an Executive Order to reduce the time required for the State department to issue Presidential Permits for construction of border crossing points would cost no money and could expedite border construction projects, with the added benefit of unclogging the nation’s trade arteries required for spurring exports.
Yet another good move would be for the President to issue an Executive Order to reduce the amount of time required for the government’s approval of FONSIs (Finding of No Significant Impact) on federal construction. Obama could increase the frequency of presenting building design and cost prospectuses to congress for approval. Why not change the rules regarding small business participation and joint ventures in construction projects under $50 million dollars? Obama could rescind the requirement for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) which punish non-union, small construction businesses and often prevents them from bidding or performing federal construction work in their communities. Federal construction projects, such as federal office buildings, federal court houses and land border ports of entry could create jobs in local communities throughout the United States, since most of these types of projects utilize local labor, local, skilled craftsmen and local, licensed construction professionals, many of which are small and minority businesses.
These projects don’t need more money; they need better understanding the federal construction process’ bottlenecks and more willing leadership in removing those bottlenecks.
If we are to actually ignite a national effort to build and repair the bridges, roads, and other critical infrastructure in the country, what is needed most is a man with true grit. In his State of the Union message, President Obama showed instead, that he is not willing to face the problem squarely and take the actions needed to get results. What a pity.