Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Report from the 2011 SA to DC Trip

Over 110 business leaders traveled to Washington, DC last week sharing one voice to advocate for the needs of San Antonio, and to hear from legislators and agency officials regarding a number of issues including health care, international trade, cybersecurity, education, transportation, immigration and military issues. This is the 33rd year that The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce organized the annual trip to Washington. The Chamber now partners with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Free Trade Alliance on the trip.

Karen Tumulty, Washington Post columnist and national political correspondent, began the SA to DC presentations by discussing the current political climate in Washington. She told the participants that the next few months will be a key time to watch Senate leaders such as Mitch McConnell.

“Washington has responded to the last election with a sharp eye on the Republican party and the number of new conservatives that have arrived,” Tumulty said. Tumulty also explained that many Democratic Senators will be up for re-election in the next big election, and there will be opportunity for Republican leaders to influence them on key votes.

This year’s schedule was packed with briefings from key Washington leaders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Congressmen Charlie Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, Lamar Smith, Francisco Canseco; Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, former Director of the CIA and NSA, General (Ret.) Michael Hayden; and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Discovery of the Cyber World Likened to Discovery of Americas



According to General (Ret.) Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and NSA, the online world will bring about changes in history not unlike the European discovery of the “New World.” General Hayden told SA to DC participants that he recently addressed a convention of cyber experts and used the discovery illustration to emphasize the importance of knowing the power of, and the risks of, the new domain that is forming.
General Hayden said that cybersecurity is a continually evolving space, and the American people need to realize that oversight and security on their personal networks and cyber-stored information is a good thing, even if it comes at the cost of some privacy. As such, he believes that the U.S. will eventually have to move to a new version of the internet; one that is very different, from the current version we use, but much more secure.
General Hayden visited San Antonio in December 2010, where he heard briefings from The Chamber’s Information Technology committee about the various cybersecurity initiatives that are happening in San Antonio. He applauded local cyber leaders for their work and how they are helping secure information not only for the government, but for corporations. He reminded the group that some companies are larger than many developed countries, and they regularly experience attacks, giving the example of Google most recently. Because it affects everyone, he encouraged all business and elected leaders to learn about this “new world” of cyber.
The Chamber sent a large delegation of information technology experts to Washington for SA to DC to learn from the Pentagon about opportunities for growing our cyber security assets in San Antonio. Additionally, the IT experts briefed elected leaders on the capabilities of the cyber companies currently located in the Alamo City.

Senators Hutchison and Cornyn Address SA to DC Participants

An annual highlight of the SA to DC trip is to hear from U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Both Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn warned that the nation’s growing national debt is not sustainable, and everyone on Capitol Hill will be focused on finding ways to lower government spending.

Senator Hutchison spoke to the SA to DC delegation Feb. 6 and specifically addressed the issue of immigration. She is convinced there will not be any “comprehensive” immigration bill, but rather the Congress must address the issue in pieces. Senator Hutchison also commented that the first priority for her is passing a DREAM Act that has been revised. Additionally, she said that she would support expanding the perimeter rule of the FAA, which could potentially allow for flights from Washington National Airport to San Antonio International Airport. Another bill she will be proposing would eliminate the cap on health savings plans and would expand the plan to once again include the cost of non-prescription drugs.

Senator Cornyn spoke to the group on Feb. 9 and addressed budgetary issues facing our nation and the current status of the health care reform bill. He stressed that his primary concern is the out-of-control spending at the federal level. Additionally, he agreed with Senator Hutchison that a comprehensive immigration bill would not be passed, but that the issues should be addressed in steps.

Senator Cornyn was asked a question about how troop drawdown in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would help lower budget expenditures. He responded that no department, including the Department of Defense, will be exempt from cuts, however we need to keep our eyes on every part of the world where we continue to see national threats.


From left to right: Chamber Chair-Elect Jim Greenwood, Vice President Governmental Affairs at Valero Energy Corp.; Chamber Chairman Sam Dawson, CEO of Pape-Dawson Engineers; U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; and Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez


From left to right: Sonya McDonald, Senior Vice President for Market Development at Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union; and U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Highway Administrator Wants U.S. to Think Multimodal


Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez told SA to DC participants that the administration is encouraging cities and metropolitan areas to plan multimodal when talking about transportation. He said that the country needs to consider all transportation methods when moving people and products around the country.

One area that may see particular emphasis from the Obama Administration is the marine highway as a way to increase opportunities for moving more products using waterways. Mendez also hopes that we will invest heavily in rail.

Mendez noted that all regionally, different modes of transportation will be needed because all regions are not the same. The Federal Highway Administration is considering each area’s specific needs, their overall culture/environment and what works in a particular regions when trying to meet the needs of national transport.

The Chamber brought a large delegation to Washington in hopes of helping secure more funding for regional projects, specifically as is planned by VIA Metropolitan Transit. Many members of the VIA board attended the SA to DC trip.
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