U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructuring

02 Jul 2018 5:43 PM | Tom Poer (Administrator)

Special Joint Release from the Missouri and Associated Rivers Coalition and The Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association

The Administration, as part of its “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century, Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations” (www.performance.gov), is proposing the merging of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Civil Works with the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Department of Interior (Interior). The Army Corps Civil Works program has three primary missions: commercial (coastal and inland) navigation, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and flood control and storm damage reduction.  

Specific recommendations affecting navigation include moving the Army Corps dredging and commercial navigation functions from the Army Corps in the Department of Defense into DOT.  One driver for change is consolidation of landside and waterside port investments, which are currently separately administered by DOT and the Army Corps, respectively. According to the plan this reform would “leverage DOT’s expertise in infrastructure, and make DOT’s maritime responsibilities analogous to its role in other transportation sectors.”   

The “new plan” views the role of Interior as related to that of the Army Corps’ Civil Works, and hence as a basis for change. Interior administers various land, water, and natural resource management programs, some that interface with or have similarity to Army Corps activities. MOARC with sixty-five years and the MVFCA with eight decades of water and related land resources management know first-hand the vast differences between these agencies, their programs and approaches—and those far outweigh the similarities. Environmental permitting and ecological restoration compose the complementary efforts of Interior and the Army Corps.    

Under the restructuring proposal flood control and storm damage reduction could also be moved to Interior. Although the intent to integrate and align water resources programs is a worthy goal, consideration must also be given to an agency’s primary function and capabilities. Floods have long-been recognized as a threat to national security. For more than a century the Army Corps has strived to defend our nation against widespread floods like those in the lower Mississippi River basin. Since 1936 the Army Corps has been tasked by Congress with helping communities reduce flood damages through local flood protection works—a program that has directly led to the protection of people, property and productivity throughout the MOARC region and Mississippi Valley, and that has averted more than a trillion dollars in flood damages. This mission is not one that can be readily or effectively transferred to a department with neither a focus on defense and national security, nor on managing flood risk.

While the MVFCA and MOARC respect the laudable intent of improved performance from our federal partners we do not see that being achieved through consolidation of the Army Corps’ flood control mission into Interior—a move quite likely to sink the local flood protection program.  The predictable and almost certain outcome is largely diminished investment in building and maintaining infrastructure, and even more burdensome regulations. What’s needed is streamlined contracting, better options for stakeholder implementation, and infrastructure projects and repairs done faster (perhaps using Federal granting procedures, such as those employed by FEMA). Flood protection is crucial to communities throughout the Mississippi Valley and the MOARC region; cities, like St. Joseph, MO, Topeka and Manhattan, KS, Kansas City, MO and KS, and many others depend on it. Local sponsors seeking to invest in flood control infrastructure need a federal partner on their side that understands the importance of protecting communities and helps get sensible requirements that can be implemented in concert with, and not instead of, flood control and storm damage reduction. 



 

MOARC Association
PO Box 22647
Kansas City, MO 64113



MOARC promotes the beneficial use of water and land related resources for the Missouri and associated rivers in the areas of    
Agriculture, Environment, Flood Damage Reduction, Navigation, Recreation, Shipping and Ports, Power, Water Quality and Supply.   

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