Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), today called for a reimagined view of infrastructure in the United States, one that includes funding for broadband as well as technology at the southern border.

During a House Committee on the Budget hearing today, Young faced numerous questions about President Biden’s FY2022 budget proposal, which envisions a total of $6.01 trillion in Federal spending. In terms of investing in infrastructure, Young called for members of the House to expand their view of what infrastructure means in the 21st century.

“We have to look beyond this traditional, limited view of infrastructure,” Young said during the hearing. “Of course, it includes roads, bridges, ports, and rail – goods and services need that transportation infrastructure to get from producers to consumers. But it also needs housing and building infrastructure, businesses and workers need modern, safe, resilient homes and workplaces in the 21st century.”

“We need a comprehensive view of what we consider infrastructure is lasting, is foundational, it supports that makes our whole system work better. So, doing one part of that, we don’t believe puts us on the path that is sustainable for the next 20 to 30 years,” she added.

One way Young hopes Congress can reimagine infrastructure is when it comes to broadband and the electric grid.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., brought to light the fact that the budget would “make transformative investments in the renewed electric grid [and] ensures high-speed broadband.” Rep. Lee said Americans are in “desperate need” of these investments and referenced “evidence by the collapse of the electric grid in Texas where 100 people died.”

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Young agreed with Rep. Jackson Lee and said broadband and the electric grid have faced “long-term underinvestment.” She also noted that these are “bipartisan ideas” that “aren’t new.”

Another way Young envisions reimagined infrastructure investment is through technology investments at the southern border, to replace funding for a physical border wall.

“We have a proposal to cancel the border wall funding and that funding is redirected to what we consider a better use and where we get real border security: a focus on technology, land ports of entry,” Young said. “We are moving away from a[n] unsustainable border wall, that has not worked, to technology.”

Biden’s budget offers over $1 billion “for border infrastructure including modernization of land ports of entry and investments in modern border security technology and assets – and migrant care,” according to a May 28 Department of Homeland Security release. As Young mentioned, the budget also does not include any additional funding for border wall construction.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.