Like I said, Obama loves engineers. If I were a civil engineering undergrad I'd be trying to graduate early, so I could get in on this.
But what's to stop this, I ask, from turning into a boondoggle? Take the Halliburton scandal during the Iraq rebuild. Faced with a massive, country-size rebuilding effort that would need massive, massive engineering and contracting efforts, the government awarded the contract to Halliburton, whom Vice-President Dick Cheney was closely tied. Beauracracy, bad engineering, unfulfilled promises, and billions of dollars have gone down the tubes while other capable engineering firms didn't even get a chance to bid.
For the Obama plan to work, it must involve fair competitive bid opportunities for national (but not international) firms that guarantee all drafting done in the U.S. A popular new strategy for engineering firms is to only hire designers, and then outsource the drafting to small companies in India. The quality of the drafting is usually poor.
In order to stimulate the U.S., the engineering firms must have a workforce that is American, and the companies, if faced with more work than their current staff can handle, must hire only nationalized Americans.
I am not saying foreign-born, or foreign-national engineers are sub-par, I am just trying to argue that for this to stimulate the U.S., the money must stay in the U.S., and not be paid to employees that might send it overseas to family in Asia.
Because we're talking about a lot of money here. The Halliburton contract to rebuild Iraq was 2.5 billion, and Obama is talking ten times that much money, just for the civil engineering work.
Fortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers is at a unique point where they might be perfectly suited to oversee much of this work. The Corps used to have their own designers do much of the work, and only rarely awarded private contracts to firms. Lately, however, there has been a push to eliminate the designer side of the Corps and just be project managers and reviewers, and almost all work is done by private contract; it's cheaper and usually quicker.
So if the ACE is in a position to award contracts and review drawings for large engineering projects here in the United States, why not allocate the funds directly to them? They already know what to do.
The worst thing that could possibly happen is if the money is mindlessly thrown at large businesses with no oversight, just like the first half of the TARP money has disappeared without any documentation whatsoever.
And please, Obama, when you are doling out the billions, think of me.
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