When Col. Anthony Funkhouser took command of the Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, his team faced immediate challenges managing unusually heavy flooding across Kansas and Oklahoma.
But the $34.5 million needed to repair parks and waterways from those 2007 downpours paled before the $100 million-plus in backlogged maintenance needs confronting his department along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
In his three years at Tulsa, the last spent also as commander of the entire ACOE Southwest Division, Funkhouser and his engineers patched many of these ailments - much of that over the last year, fueled by President Barack Obama's stimulus package.
"You can see much of that right now, as you travel around to those projects, and I think many folks are enjoying them as we speak," said Funkhouser, who on Friday will step down as commander of the Tulsa District. He will be replaced by Col. Michael J. Teague, formerly the U.S. Third Army central engineer responsible for Army construction throughout the Middle East and central Asia.
The Tulsa District has handled more than $430 million in project and service contracts this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than twice its annual average. That includes $1.3 billion in contract capacity through base Civil Works and Military programs, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activity, two congressional supplemental funding measures and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
With more than $120 million in civil project funds, that allowed the Corps of Engineers to address not only McClellan-Kerr critical needs, but many of the damaged parks. That leaves the Tulsa District with only a $40 million civil backlog, most of that among state and federal recreational areas.
"The way we were able to do it was we actually had consolidated a prioritized list of maintenance requirements," Funkhouser said Wednesday. "As the money came in, we were able to work down that list.
"Our legacy as an organization is that we've been able to recapitalize our projects," he said. "It was an incredible year that we will never see again in our lifetime."
Funkhouser enjoyed similar success with the Dallas-based Southwestern Division.
"It was a privilege and honor to be asked to do that particular job," he said, noting divisional posts usually went to general officers. "It was supposed to be only a couple of months, but I've ended up doing it almost a year by the time."
Overseeing four districts ranging from Texas to Arkansas, Kansas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana, Funkhouser commanded a budget topping $4 billion. Corps efforts ranged from building three hospitals simultaneously to Galveston waterway developments and a number of civil projects.
"I think we've done very, very well," he said. "We've got a lot of guidance on executing the recovery act to get the money and re- energize the economy. Of all the eight divisions associated with the Corps, the Southwestern Division will be first division to have all of its recovery act contracts awarded by July. That's a source of pride for me, to get all that money back out into the economy."
Once he completes his Southwestern Divisional post in July, Funkhouser will take command of an Army Corps of Engineers district in Afghanistan. From past deployments in Iraq and Kuwait, Funkhouser understands better than most the challenges of working in a Middle East war zone.
The one-year tour in Afghanistan will involve a mixture of civil and military construction projects. Not only will Funkhouser's team build airfields and operating bases, both for the U.S. Army and Afghani military and police, but the Corps of Engineers will provide road repairs, water infrastructure improvements, dam construction, and potential electrical distribution system upgrades.
This parallels his past experiences. …