Biden Infrastructure Plan Includes Billions for Federal Buildings and Research

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on infrastructure spending at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center March 31.

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on infrastructure spending at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center March 31. Evan Vucci/AP

The American Jobs Plan proposes spending a small chunk of the $2 trillion on improving federal office buildings and hospitals.

The Biden administration’s newly unveiled infrastructure plan, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, includes several proposed technology investments, $28 billion of which would target federal employees where they work.

While funding to upgrade federal agencies’ internal IT systems was concentrated in the American Rescue Plan—which resulted in less funding than the administration wanted but still garnered $1 billion from Congress for the Technology Modernization Fund—the American Jobs Plan includes key technology, cybersecurity and research and development funding requests.

The $2 trillion plan includes funding for improvements to U.S. buildings, such as housing, schools and federal buildings, particularly hospitals managed by the Veterans Affairs Department.

“The federal government operates office buildings, courthouses and other facilities in every state,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, “where millions of workers serve the public from outdated, inefficient and sometimes unsafe working conditions.”

The plan calls for $18 billion to modernize VA hospitals and clinics and another $10 billion to focus on the “modernization, sustainability and resilience of federal buildings.” For the latter, the plan proposes the creation of a Federal Capital Revolving Fund, initially suggested in 2018 by the Trump administration.

The other major funding push with a federal technology component centers on the nation’s capabilities in research and development. The fact sheet notes significant investments from peer adversaries like China during a time when American investment has declined when looked at as a percentage of gross domestic product.

The plan requests $180 billion in new investments, including $50 billion for the National Science Foundation and $40 billion to be disbursed among the federal funded research and development centers, or FFRDCs, particularly those managed by the Energy Department.

The plan calls for investing another $100 billion to improve the electric grid and other parts of America’s energy infrastructure. Some of that work will include improving physical infrastructure, while other funding will go toward new technologies to support that infrastructure.

Technology is mentioned as a consideration in a number of other areas, as well, in particular climate change.

Along with more efficient technologies for use in the energy sector, the fact sheet includes shoutouts to “climate-smart technologies” to help mitigate future natural disasters—which cost the U.S. $95 billion in property damage in 2020 alone—and funding to increase production and availability of electric vehicles.  

That will include the federal fleet, President Joe Biden said during a speech Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“The federal government owns an enormous fleet of vehicles,” Biden said, referring to the more than 645,000 vehicles owned by federal agencies, according to the Federal Fleet Report maintained by the General Services Administration.

Biden said those vehicles will “be transitioned to clean electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles—right here, in the United States of America, by American workers, with American products.”

The infrastructure plan also requests $100 billion to “bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American, including the more than 35% of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds.”

The push for “broadband for all” was held up as a priority on par with “reliable transportation, safe water, affordable housing, healthy schools [and] clean electricity.”

“Generations ago, the federal government recognized that without affordable access to electricity, Americans couldn’t fully participate in modern society and the modern economy,” the fact sheet states. “Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected.”

The funding would be put toward reaching 100% broadband coverage nationwide while attempting to tamp down the cost of internet services for consumers. The plan proposes subsidizing high-cost areas—as is currently done through the Universal Service Fund—but says that is not a long-term solution.

“Americans pay too much for the internet—much more than people in many other countries—and the president is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable and save taxpayer money,” the fact sheet states.