Gloria Christie (US) - How Does the 2012 Lame Duck Congress Face Natural and Man-made Disaster?

Gloria Christie discusses the effects of natural and man-made disasters on the US, and the opportunities they can offer for technology.

The First Storm

The United States has been hit hard with disasters, both natural and man-made. But a combination of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, which struck the U.S.'s northeast coast, and a Presidential election, has created an unusual opportunity for technology. As snowflakes fall over a ruined shoreline, the reality of global warming has finally struck home with an unavoidable intensity.

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, "I am pleased to report that he [re-elected Democrat President Obama] has sprung into action immediately...He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit."

What makes this notable is that for the past four years Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads. Christie and Obama's ability to work together may signal the beginning of the end of partisan politics and with that, an opening for a major technological conversion.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director, Craig Fugate, said several times that he is not satisfied with FEMA's response in New York and New Jersey and would not be until all residents had power, water and a means of transportation. So the question becomes, what can technology do shore up one of the most highly populated areas in the U.S.?

There are ample opportunities for technology to create new ways of managing the electrical and gas grids, so that people are not left without heat and power for extended periods of time. Such technology could be applicable across the States, since we are prone not only to hurricanes and flooding but to snowstorms, tornadoes and earthquakes.

Low-lying coastal cities' subway systems have been subjected to the corrosive aspects of salt water flooding that occurred with Hurricane Sandy. In New York alone, nearly 5.5 million people ride the subway system daily. Technology could have locked down the subway system and prevented the tremendous snarl of mother nature.

However, after-the-fact solutions are not enough. Both political parties will be looking at preventive methodologies for New York City and surrounding areas to barricade themselves from rising seas, perhaps similar to those envisioned by Venice.

The Financial Disaster

Another disaster looms on the horizon - a financial disaster. From now until the point when a new Congress is sworn into office in January, the U.S. will be operating in what we call a "Lame Duck" session. Only if both Republicans and Democrats can find a way to work together during this time will they be able to avert a December 31, 2012, fiscal cliff. The potential disaster mandates $500 billion +/- in tax reversals to the middle class and the upper 1% of taxpayers. If both parties cannot find a way to compromise, technology contracts will be on the chopping block with $100 billion +/- in mandatory government spending cuts including Defense cuts.

Up until now, Democrats who control the Senate, and Republicans who control the House, have approached the fiscal cliff from different perspectives; the Democrats wanted a combination of cuts and tax increases and the Republicans have resisted tax reversions. Some partial fixes include the extension of a number of smaller taxes such as Research and Development credit. But if Democrats and Republicans decide to punt the solution further down the road, they risk impacting the U.S.'s credit rating negatively. Without a solution to the fiscal cliff, businesses will live in uncertainty, especially regarding regulations. The result will be limits on hiring, contracts and low inventories.

Without stability, the natural outgrowth of this man-made disaster is another recession and fewer dollars for all things technical - including so many natural disaster preventatives.


By Gloria Christie, Partner at The Christie Group

Disclaimer: This blog is based upon my opinion and my opinion only. It does not reflect those of IDG-Connect.