Persistence Pays Off

 

May 2008

NSPE TODAY: POLICY PERSPECTIVES
Persistence Pays Off

BY SARAH OGDEN

NSPE has long been a driving force behind the A/E industry's lobbying and grassroots efforts, and microphoneall of the hard work pays dividends. Over the years, NSPE has championed qualifications-based selection of design professionals, urged the government to conduct a comprehensive review of the nation's infrastructure, and fought for programs that encourage students to enter fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to maintain U.S. competitiveness in a global market. Finally, the government is listening.

Since the Brooks act became law in 1972, NSPE has remained vigilant in protecting and promoting the law, which stipulates that QBS be used in awarding federal A/E contracts. When the law was violated by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council in 2006, NSPE, as a member of the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services, sued the federal government. Though the case was thrown out in 2007 when a judge ruled the plaintiffs had no standing, QBS retained a small victory: Because the court did not address the legal merits and policy issues of the case, it left open the possibility of further litigation to clarify the spirit of the Brooks act.

NSPE and COFPAES continue to work with the government at all levels to advocate for QBS. In March, COFPAES Administrator John Palatiello testified before the House Small Business Committee during a hearing on procurement methods and small business contracts. COFPAES also sponsored a semiannual federal A/E forum in April to educate government agencies and congressional staff on QBS issues.

Another area where NSPE has made a difference is in STEM education. Once an obscure acronym, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is now rolling easily off the tongues of senior members of Congress. One high-profile triumph for STEM education has been the America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law last August after a year and a half of bipartisan collaboration. America COMPETES seeks to respond to the 2005 National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm by providing funding to improve STEM education and increase research investment.

To maintain the momentum for STEM legislation, NSPE continues to serve as an active member of the STEM Education Coalition, which communicates regularly with Congress and the Bush administration in support of STEM education programs ranging from primary- to university-level. The coalition's latest efforts focus on appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate. NSPE has signed onto letters from the coalition urging these committees to fully fund STEM programs that fall within each committee's purview, including the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships Program and the Math Now program and the National Science Foundation's Education and Human Resources Directorate.

Congress is also responding to the need for a broad review of U.S. infrastructure. The National Infrastructure Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent last August. The legislation would create a commission to perform a comprehensive appraisal of America's infrastructure. At PE Day on the Hill on April 30, PEs from across the nation were scheduled to meet with representatives and their staff to urge action on the House version of the bill. (There will be more on the congressional visits next month.) NSPE will continue to support comprehensive infrastructure reform and other infrastructure issues, including protecting our critical infrastructure through homeland security and green building measures to protect the environment.

Though NSPE is far from finished fulfilling its mission, recent legislative developments have proven that the Society can make a difference. But to keep our momentum going, we need you to get involved. Find out how at www.nspe.org/IssuesandAdvocacy/TakeAction/index.html.