Topic: Leading the Infrastructure Discussion
Speaker: Dr. J. Ledlie Klosky, Professor of Civil Engineering and Dean’s Executive Agent for Design and Construction, Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, US Military Academy West Point
Societies make important long‐term decisions every day: water quality, transportation, public health, environmental protection, the ever‐elusive “quality of life,” and on and on. These are not always conscious decisions, and many in a society might not even be aware of the variety of consequences of the choices made. Further, the more deeply embedded the systems that deliver the services we count on, the more ingrained the processes in our lives, the more likely we are to think that what we see now always was that way and will always be that way; this is especially true with the expensive, essential, long‐horizon infrastructure systems that underlie our daily lives in such a fundamental way. Lastly, many citizens lack the basic educational or experiential background to engage with the complex mix of technical, political, and financial issues involved with any large infrastructure system. This is not a great recipe for enabling and embracing changes in the infrastructure that is so critical to our daily lives.
The old saying is “All politics is local.” Local governments are right in the middle of this difficult situation, where people care passionately about what happens to their immediate surroundings; however, many of the stakeholders providing essential feedback suffer from information asymmetry or are being misinformed, leading to strong feelings that they are being pushed around by the “Tyranny of Experts” rather than being supported and given decision space by those experts. Smaller municipalities are particularly challenged, since they often rely on volunteer or low‐paid citizen boards to run or oversee critical systems. Thus, there is a certain built‐in inertia that requires leadership to overcome and push towards change. This leadership space  is not inhabited easily, but with motivation, access to knowledge, study, and plain hard work, change in infrastructure systems is possible, with huge benefits to all involved.
Dr. Led Klosky has taught at West Point since January 2000 and serves as the Dean’s Executive Agent for Design and Construction. Holder of the National Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, Dr. Klosky is a noted scholar and educator, writing and speaking about infrastructure, engineering education, and the early history of engineering in the United States. Using his expertise as a Professional Engineer, he leads the effort to construct the $200M Cyber and Engineering Academic Center (CEAC), breaking ground in 2020, and supports the Academic Building Upgrade Program (ABUP); together these programs will expend over $1B reimagining and revitalizing West Point’s historic campus. An expert subsurface and infrastructure engineer with significant industry experience, Led also served as the Subject Matter Expert for a major Army Industrial Base expansion, consulting with PEO Ammo and USACE on complex deep foundations for Radford Arsenal. At West Point, Dr. Klosky has provided leadership through service on the Policy Board, Steering Committee, Superintendent’s Civilian Faculty Advisory Council and on the Museum, Historical and Memorialization (MHM) committee. In the local community, Led leads the Comprehensive Plan Committee for the Village of Cornwall‐on‐Hudson and has served on the Town of Cornwall Planning Board since 2002.