Washington, DC - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still pressing Congress to approve projects not included within President Bush's FY 2003 Budget. Corps lobbying has accelerated despite the abrupt removal on March 6th of Mike Parker, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
A prime example is the Corps' relentless drive to obtain Congressional authorization this year for a massive construction project on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway- the same project engulfed in scandal during the last two years after a senior Corps economist revealed that the Corps had "cooked the books" to falsely justify the project. A subsequent Pentagon and National Research Counsel investigation validated the charges, resulting in disciplinary actions against two Corps commanding generals and a colonel.
The Corps has established a privately operated "interactive" website at a cost agency sources put at $100,000 (http://www.ursbethesda.com/umr-iwwsns/index.cfm). This website advocates for early authorization of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway projects. The Corps saw fit to employ funds earmarked for this study to pay for this elaborate promotional website. On the site, the Corps announces it will seek project authorization this year even though the required studies will not be completed until late 2004.
This month, the Corps is bringing every District Engineer, each one an officer of the rank of colonel, to Washington, DC to meet with local Congressional representatives. Within days of Mr. Parker's termination, the halls of Congress teemed with green suited Corps officers going door to door.
"Mike Parker was not the cause of insubordination at the Corps, he was merely the latest manifestation of a much larger, ingrained pattern within the Corps leadership," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization represents Corps employees who have internally challenged agency projects. "With Parker's removal, the Corps is like a chicken with its head cut off, still running full tilt through the halls of Congress."