Like Nero, Obama Fiddles While Disaster Rages

I made a special effort to watch President Obama’s state of the Gulf speech in anticipation of learning the government had, at last, given BP all the opportunities possible and was now declaring a state of national emergency to address the catastrophe. Well, like most of America, I missed that part. Instead I heard that the government can’t stop the tides, doesn’t know how to stop the oil pouring into the Gulf, promised to compensate everyone affected in the entire Gulf region and beyond, and, by the way, BP would be paying for everything. But where was the urgency and imperative call to action for the nation? This is a national tragedy and calls for unmistakable resolve and determination on the part of the President to take immediate action, not appoint another study group.

President Kennedy, sensing a threat to the future security of this nation, initiated a call to engineers and scientists across the country to solve the challenges of space travel and ultimately put a man on the moon. President Truman, facing forecasts of thousands dead to conclude the Pacific Campaign, initiated a call that resulted in engineers and scientists working in forced isolation until the Manhattan Project was completed.

So now we have the oil problem in the Gulf. No amount of posturing or finger pointing is ever going to address, much less solve, the two must happen challenges: stopping the oil from escaping the well; and stopping the oil from devastating large portions of the Gulf ecosystem and economic infrastructure.

Unfortunately I have yet to see anything announcing a Presidential Call To Action for the nation’s engineers, scientists, researchers to come together and aggressively address this catastrophe. When was Sandia or any of the 9 national laboratories placed on high alert? What type of contact has there been with academia who research and investigate these issues? Have professional engineering firms with expertise in this area been contacted? In short, who has been enlisted to provide answers, not just a body? Mobilizing thousands to pick up the pieces after the fact is one approach, but how about trying to get ahead of the curve? As President, protecting this country from threats foreign or domestic is in Mr. Obama’s job description and this catastrophe is indeed an attack, no, an invasion of our country. It is way past time to call out, by executive order if necessary, the engineers and scientists who do have the knowledge and expertise to meet these challenges.

Mr. Obama, please take note. You are the President of the United States of America. Pick up the telephone and make it happen. You, Tony and the rest of the Congressional chattering class can argue over how the taxpayer is finally going to pay for this later!

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Virginia Firms Lose Out Again

Hard on the heels of Governor McDonnell’s numerous comments regarding job creation here in Virginia, I read with interest that a reactor technology had been decided upon for proposed use in the possible construction of a new power generation unit at North Anna. Until I read the purchase was to be made from a foreign firm. So let me just get this straight. The state’s largest regulated electric utility, providing power to 2.3 million Virginia customers, is purchasing reactor technology from whom? Not from a Virginia company, no, not even from a U.S. company, the purchased technology is from a Japanese firm! While a strong independent business and competitive bidding advocate, I was appalled nonetheless. Am I missing something here?

Since the Tobacco Indemnification Fund was created, plus other state and federal financial largess, Virginia has been buying, I mean enticing, business throughout Republican and Democratic administrations. And while every business shouldn’t have to consult with state representatives prior to commencing relocation or expansion projects, state regulated monopolies have, or should have, a responsibility, in my opinion, to give the state the courtesy of a ‘heads-up’ when millions/billions/trillions of investment dollars are at stake. According to utility sources, no contract has yet been signed, so where in the world was/is the brand new Commonwealth Economic Development Fund committee and what are they doing? Possibly, like the state’s IT project, this project is also too large, or too complicated, or too something for any Virginia firm or consortium to manage and would obviously be more effectively administered by a really large global firm.

Letter after letter has exhorted public officials to direct, force if you wish, government entities and large industries to locate and use Virginia firms first, all to no avail. Apparently I need some guidance with my logic: Virginia firms, who pay Virginia taxes, grow and in turn hire Virginia employees, who in turn pay Virginia taxes and support local and state-wide business ventures of every stripe, who in turn also pay Virginia taxes and support many philanthropic activities, who in turn …, but it all starts with job creation. And yes, it is very nice and a real boon for many in the state to attract a 300-job call center operation or a gigantic defense contractor’s headquarters. But what about on-going growth opportunities within Virginia’s professional engineering, architectural, and related communities? Must I highlight what seems so obvious, Virginia’s projects, paid for by Virginia’s taxpayers, should be done by Virginia’s professionals.

My question: Why, sir, are we not utilizing these resources to their fullest potential?

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