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Keston Institute: Message from the Director
Richard LittleThe importance of civil infrastructure systems to modern society is well established. Modern economies rely on the ability to move goods, people, and information safely and reliably. These systems represent a massive capital investment and are an economic engine of enormous power. However, in California, as elsewhere, these vital systems are at continuing risk from factors ranging from physical deterioration and underinvestment to natural hazards and acts of terrorism.  The Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy was established at the University of Southern California in 2002 through a major gift provided by Michael and Linda Keston and seeks to leverage USC's enormous intellectual resources to help California and the nation address critical infrastructure issues.

Despite the obvious importance of civil infrastructure to our collective social, economic, and political well-being, our ability to sustain these vital systems over the long term is in doubt. Developing stable, long-term funding sources for necessary maintenance and capital improvements has proven extremely challenging. Revenues derived solely from direct consumers of services are generally inadequate and direct government outlays undependable. In addition, civil infrastructures do not all lie within the public domain; many, in fact, are private, for-profit enterprises. Because of this, government and industry must work together to establish desired performance levels and develop equitable and cost-effective approaches to achieve them. Finally, the physical systems, human resources, and organizational frameworks that deliver civil infrastructure services are so intertwined as to be inseparable. For these reasons, today's infrastructure solutions demand a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates engineering, planning, business and finance, and the social and policy sciences. Jointly housed within the Marshall School of Business and the School of Policy, Planning, and Development, the USC Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy is well-positioned to advance such approaches.

The infrastructure issues confronting California and the nation will require hard choices and careful trade-offs. However, by working together as informed partners, government officials, business leaders, and the public can prioritize these issues and move forward to address them. Through an annual program of lectures, workshops, and directed research projects, the USC Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy will develop objective and technically sound information, policy options, and decision tools to support the informed decision-making necessary to ensure that California's infrastructure in the 21st Century is equal to the potential and productivity of its citizens and economy.

Richard G. Little, AICP
Director, The Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy