White House pushes for smart cities engagement
The White House had local leaders buzzing when it announced a plan to devote roughly $160 million in federal research funds to smart cities programs this week, and now the Obama administration is working to show cities how they can take advantage of the new federal dollars.
“Cities are where the future happens first,” Secretary Julian Castro of the Department of Housing and Urban Development said at the Smart Cities Council’s “Smart Cities Week” conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. “They’re the incubators for bold ideas, a kind of audition stage where those ideas are to be put to the test.”
But the new initiative can only do so much if it can’t support smart cities with funds beyond this year. While $100 million of the cash the White House pledged on Monday has already been distributed, the remaining $60 million still needs approval from Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who spoke at the event, believes the administration has the support of lawmakers to keep the money going forward.
“Next fiscal year, the president will ask for money to support the portion of his initiative that hasn’t been funded, and he’ll get it,” Issa said. “I’m very confident that we’ll find the dollars for it.”
With those assurances that the money will be available, administration officials are now trying to get the word out about how cities can get in on the action.
A variety of groups — which include the National Science Foundation, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency — are all offering up grants as part of the initiative. The number of ways to get involved in the program can seem overwhelming, but groups like the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy are trying to provide a roadmap for engagement.
“I think it’s critical to be able to coordinate and provide a front door for cities and stakeholders who are looking to apply for money, that work is underway,” said Dan Correa, senior adviser for innovation policy with the office.
Correa stressed that the administration is aware of the “growing challenges for sustainability and resource shortages around the world” and he thinks the White House is now in a position to encourage cities and companies to address those problems by focusing on the Internet of Things.