Why should decision makers be concerned about "infrastructure?"

Organizations depend on buildings, structures, pavements, utilities, tracks, and other infrastructure assets to do business and accomplish missions. Over time, infrastructure assets deteriorate thru use and natural processes. They eventually reach a point where they will fail unless repaired or replaced. When resources are scarce, decision makers often favor other needs over infrastructure repair needs. As a result, infrastructures continue to decay beyond engineered limits, putting business services, mission, and people at risk.

Why shine a spotlight on "infrastructure stewardship?"

The human tendency to defer infrastructure repair always worsens in hard economic times. Decision makers' most common reaction to economic stress is transferring funds from capital use to operations, and using any remaining capital funds for visible and popular purposes such as new infrastructure construction rather than for repair of aging infrastructure. A related, hard times practice is laying off maintenance personnel and cutting operating dollars needed for repair materials and contracts without the slightest idea of the business, mission and safety impacts of such reductions.

Doing business like this is not good for aging and under-funded infrastructures, which may already be in bad condition and on the verge of functional, if not physical, failure.

What is meant by "responsible infrastructure stewardship?

Unfortunately, most decision makers face little accountability for their raids on infrastructure repair funds because the negative consequences usually take years to surface and, even then, are often held in check by committed employees who keep things going in noteworthy ways. Responsible infrastructure stewardship simply means using due diligence and giving proper weight in resource allocation decisions to aging infrastructure needs despite the temptation to sweep the long-term impact of such actions under the rug.

What has been done in the past to mitigate the effects of "irresponsible stewardship?"

Since the 1950s, infrastructure advocates have spent a lot of time trying to neutralize the damaging practice of irresponsible repair deferrals. Most attempts have tried spot lighting the ever-declining physical condition of the organizationís infrastructure assets. This approach is still used today in many organizations, despite the expense and non-repeatability of data collection and the fact that that the metrics have no scientific basis and behave unpredictably. Pleading the case for using scarce funds to arrest declining infrastructure condition has never really caught on in board rooms because decision makers have not been shown a clear, credible, or present link between asset condition and business and mission goals.

Why is there an Institute for Responsible Infrastructure Stewardship?

Today, there is an opportunity for infrastructure advocates to do what couldnít be done before. And itís made possible by the growing attention in board rooms to new analytic tools such as Multi Criteria Decision Making, Operational Risk Management, and Fuzzy Logic.

These exciting methods are already in use in many other fields such as nuclear power and Homeland Security. A wealth of industry literature applies the concepts to business disruptions due to natural disasters, terrorism, and vandalism. There are even international symposiums and organizations that promote their general development and application. But the Institute of Responsible Infrastructure Stewardship is the only non-partisan organization promoting their application to protecting against business disruption, mission failure, and personal injury caused by normal infrastructure deterioration.
responsible stewardship of the nation's aging Infrastructure
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Last Modified 7 August 2010
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