DJ Gribbin, President Trump’s top infrastructure advisor, is leaving the White House as the current administration’s push to enact large-scale infrastructure reform continues to hit delays.
Gribbin, who previously worked at Macquarie Capital before being appointed special assistant to the president for infrastructure last January, is “moving on to new opportunities,” a White House official said.
For 14 months, he helped lead the Trump administration’s initiative to reinvest in America’s infrastructure. His task was to help figure out how to pay for the billions of dollars in projects states and local governments need but don’t have the budget to pay for, a reality that to many meant bringing in private investment.
A $1.5 trillion plan the White House unveiled in February, after months of delays, proposes using $200 billion in federal spending over a decade to entice state and local governments and the private sector to invest in infrastructure. Gribbin advocated for using public-private partnerships as part of the plan.
“Since he joined the team early last year, DJ has played an important part in coordinating the administration-wide process behind the president’s infrastructure initiative,” national economic adviser Gary Cohn, who is also leaving the White House, said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am grateful for his service and fully believe that the plan President Trump delivered to Congress, combined with the work we are doing administratively, will have a transformational impact on our economy.”
However, Democrats, wary of private control over public assets, and Republicans, reluctant to large federal spending, met the bill with skepticism.
A lack of clear direction and “other priorities” the Trump administration was focused on may have led to Gribbin’s departure, according to Martin Klepper, former executive director of the Build America Bureau.
Klepper, who worked with Gribbin on the infrastructure plan before resigning last October, said the plan took a “very agnostic approach” to how state and local governments should raise money for investments.
“He probably recognised the $20 billion-a-year programme the federal government was proposing is a fraction of what’s needed. I think he was also practical enough to realise this administration has lots of other priorities besides infrastructure, even though they keep talking about infrastructure,” Klepper said. “I would suspect that the likelihood of any legislation getting through is probably less than 50 percent right now.
“My opinion is that if he thought there was a good chance of legislation in the next six months, he would have stayed,” Klepper added.
Now, Klepper said it’s likely Congressional committees will try to pass “smaller pieces” of the plan individually. He said that, depending on the outcome of this November’s midterm elections, Democrats may make an effort to reach an agreement on a “more significant” spending bill.
Gribbin was previously a managing director at Macquarie Capital, where he led efforts on public-private partnerships. He’s also served as general counsel of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.