U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Providing Great Value

By Van Antwerp, Robert L. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Providing Great Value


Van Antwerp, Robert L., Army


As I begin my final year as the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), I've been reflecting on USACE's value to the nation, and I genuinely believe we provide great value. Most people are simply not aware of the magnitude of our mission. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our many areas of expertise and responsibility as well as the enormous challenges we face in the coming years and what we're doing to manage it all.

Our Value to the Nation

Readers are probably most familiar with our military programs mission, so I'll start there - though we do much more than that. In 2009, our military programs budget surpassed $30 billion. In 2010, it's only slightly less: $28 billion. As part of that mission, our military construction work covers 60 Air Force and 103 Army installations, with which we've been extremely busy because of the construction related to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act, which is currently coming to a peak.

Using the expertise we have gained through our formerly used defense sites, formerly utilized sites remedial action program and support to the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program, we now complete about $1.2 billion in environmental clean-up work each year.

Since 2003, USACE has completed approximately 5,785 construction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan totaling $10.8 billion, including 1,148 schools, 52 hospital projects, 133 health-care centers and more than 900 water-related projects. We have added or restored 6,000 megawatts of power generation and provided water treatment capacity to serve more than 5 million people and health facilities to serve 6.6 million hospital patients. In just the last two years, we have more than doubled our military and civilian workforce in Afghanistan from 300 to 680, while the workload there has grown from $1.6 billion to $3.6 billion.

In 2009, we provided humanitarian assistance construction support (schools, clinics, water supplies) in 34 countries totaling 161 projects for Africa Command, European Command, Southern Command and Pacific Command. We also built approximately 190 miles of pedestrian fence and 195 miles of vehicle barrier along the U.S./Mexico border. And of course, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 dramatically increased our workload, with $3.1 billion for military construction and another S4.6 billion in civil works.

With ARRA, our civil works budget in 2009 reached $10.8 billion, and in 2010 it is $9.7 billion. As part of the civil works mission, we maintain the ports and waterways of this nation. The imports and exports from our ports have a tremendous economic impact at $1.2 trillion per year. We maintain 926 coastal, Great Lakes and inland harbors, and create, enhance, restore or preserve nearly 20,000 acres of wetlands each year as well as provide hundreds of miles of shore protection and hurricane- and storm-damage risk reduction.

We have specific authorities for approximately 14,000 miles of levees of the nationwide total of about 100,000 miles. That leaves a large universe of private and other non-USACE levees that have not been inventoried or inspected, which means the size, location, condition and consequences of poor performance of those levees are unknown. There is no single agency with responsibility for levee oversight nationwide.

We own and operate approximately 650 dams, many of which help us provide 24 percent of the nation's hydropower. We also own and operate 238 navigation lock chambers on 12,000 miles of inland waterways.

Another little known fact about USACE: We are actually the largest federal provider of outdoor recreation, with more than 4,300 recreation sites at Corps lakes and river projects - and we experienced more than 370 million visitor days in 2009.

We also respond to disasters in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to provide emergency power or commodities such as ice and water. …

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