The U.S. Department of Commerce will announce in a few weeks the members of a new supply chain advisory committee, Michael Masserman, executive director for export policy, promotion and strategy, said Monday at a seminar in Chicago focused on growing U.S. exports.
The federal advisory panel will include people from the public and private sectors and be charged with advising the government on how to develop a holistic, national system for freight infrastructure and a national freight policy, the point man for the Obama administration's National Export Initiative told an audience convened by the Containerization and Intermodal Institute.
"We get it. Supply chain and transportation infrastructure are absolutely critical," he said.
The Commerce Department has selected a panel of representatives from the ports, logistics and freight transport sectors who responded to a Federal Register
notice several months ago seeking experts to help guide policymakers.
Industry leaders are frustrated that freight for decades has taken a back seat in federal and state transportation policy, which tends to focus on the mobility of motorists. Spending on freight projects is haphazard and often left to local and regional governments, but logistics experts say national priorities for targeting investment where freight is concentrated are necessary because efficient goods movement is critical to the national economy and freight flows across multiple regions, and even coast-to-coast.
A concerted lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill has led to proposals for a dedicated freight fund in the current debate over a new surface transportation reauthorization bill, but the House and Senate are having a difficult time agreeing on a short, two-year bill and the chance of a freight title remaining in any final bill is uncertain.
In 2009, the Commerce and Transportation departments began collaborating on supply chain policy because of the link between transportation infrastructure and international trade. The departments held a series of town hall meetings around the country to hear from stakeholders on what a national freight system should look like and the primary bottlenecks. The goal of the exercise was to inform the administration's proposal for the new surface transportation bill, but the DOT never provided its version of a bill to Congress as it has in the past.
The benefit of having a formal advisory committee is to ensure a balance of perspectives are brought to the table and that industry stakeholders present consensus opinions to policymakers, Masserman explained after his presentation.
Masserman, who has a background in international capital markets and mergers, took over as head of the NEI in March after the departure of Courtney Gregoire. - Eric Kulisch