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Technology Planning and Analysis

7 Pawns in the Game of US Politics and Technology

In the United States, technology is a sophisticated “if/then” game that must pass numerous political hurdles before implementation can even be considered. The if/then challenge starts with the basic rules that constrain the governing system of the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives. And if the various issues that technologies inhabit do make it through politics, what technical systems will make the cut?

If the Democrat President wants to implement a new or modified law, he must first get it out of committee (Democrat-dominated committees in the Senate, Republican-dominated in the House). Then contrary to common sense, any bill faces two difficult hurdles in the Democrat-held Senate. The first hurdle is the current procedure that allows one Senator to put a hold on, or ‘filibuster’, the bill. The other hurdle comes from the President’s own Democrat majority. The Senators in question may live in “a red” (primarily Republican) state. If his or her re-election comes in 2014, the Senator may lean away from Democrat (“blue”) issues to improve re-election chances. 

When a bill makes it through the Senate, it still must pass the House of Representatives, which holds a significant Republican majority. And yes, there are Republican Representatives who serve in primarily Blue States. But Republicans are far more successful than Democrats in forming a cohesive voting block. So if a bill reaches the House of Representatives, its fate is likely doomed.

The President still has some alternatives. President Obama may choose the route of taking his issue to the people, trying to convince them to pressure their Senators and Representatives. The President can also exert his Executive Powers and relegate funds to an issue.  This choice has become far less viable given the passage of Budget Sequestration, a procedure that limits the federal budget. On March 1, 2013 an austerity Sequestration went into effect causing an across-the-board government 10% cut.

Immigration

Needless to say given the current situation, the American people feel as if their government is thoroughly gridlocked. In the State of the Union Address, President Obama emphasized his intent to resolve the undocumented immigrant issue. But after initial strong opposition, the elected Republicans abruptly shifted direction when they realized the political cost - lose their 2012 bid for the majority in the Senate.

One of President Obama’s premises is an easier path toward citizenship for the existing 11 million undocumented immigrants. But the porous border between the U.S. and Mexico is first controlled. That requires extensive efficient and effective technical systems to monitor the border. Other requirements include systems to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants and background checks on undocumented immigrants.

Energy & Environment

Global warming is another issue in the game of technology and politics. In the 2010 election, the Tea Party wing gained a significant majority in the House of Representatives. People who support the Tea Party believe in a severely reduced government, elimination of the federal debt, impeachment of President Obama and a balanced budget. 

A small but vocal number of the more conservative Republicans also believe that Global Warming is a hoax. And some believe that floods, tornadoes and hurricanes are the result of religious punishment. Due to the Tea Party’s legislative power, the ability of a Democrat President to impact Global Warming systems is seriously hindered.

Defense

President Obama is committed to a downsized military and limited drone technology. However, the Tea Party believes a strong military is vital.

Health Care

Millions more Americans will rely on our existing physicians when the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect in 2014 and the number of retirees increases. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates that there is a shortage of up to 20,000, so remote diagnosis is critical.

Infrastructure

Last week, three were injured when a semi-truck hit a bridge abutment, and seven were injured in Missouri as two trains collided, causing a highway bridge collapse.

Technology could monitor the status of every bridge, train and truck plus movement and hazardous waste in the States as well as the cities’ water and waste water systems, air quality, internet, security, communications and street systems. However, there just isn’t available funding for these necessary projects.

Lifestyle

The aging US population means more public transportation, and inner city and small space living systems. Technology has reached retirees creating a full market, but this makes all citizens ever-reachable.  

Big Biz vs. Entrepreneurship

People are beginning to recognize the value of buying local and bringing healthier food into their homes. The loss of jobs across the country has increased the number of entrepreneurs. But global super-sized businesses and too-big-to-fail banks still maintain a strong grip on the US economy and agriculture.

Family farms use technology to monitor crop production, finances and markets, but not to a full extent. Education still uses a big-business imprint to manage small businesses. And not everyone can be an entrepreneur.

Conclusion

There is a wide-open market for technology throughout the US. However, politics effectively hampers or kills funding required to support these needs. There is a strong, “Buy Local” movement; so on-shore contractors may get preference. And the game of politics is dependent upon what the 2014 and 2016 elections bring.

 

By Gloria Christie, MS, MPA, Partner at The Christie Group

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