Washington, DC - Buried inside the omnibus appropriation bill recently passed by the Senate is a provision prohibiting any attempt to privatize or restructure the US Army Corps of Engineers. This special exemption for the Corps is evidence of the continued dominance of pork barrel politics among Congressional leadership, charges Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The language singles out the Corps as the only agency exempt from President Bush's attempts to outsource 425,000 federal employee jobs. Internal reviews have reportedly identified a large portion of the Corps civilian workforce as subject to replacement by private contractors. The language also shields the Corps from "transformation" plans by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to shed all functions deemed as outside of the core Pentagon mission. The Rumsfeld plan, called "The Third Wave," has alarmed Corps allies.
Inserted with no debate, the provision reads:
110. None of the funds appropriated herein or hereafter in this Act, or any other Act, shall be used to study or implement any plans privatizing, divesting or transferring of any Civil Works missions, functions, or responsibilities for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to other government agencies without specific direction in a subsequent Act of Congress.
The bill, now in negotiation with the House, is tentatively scheduled for completion next week. House leadership has included similar but less sweeping language in its latest continuing resolution temporarily funding federal operations.
"Congressional leadership is taking this action because the Corps occupies a privileged position at the right hand of the pork barrel," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch."If Congress is truly concerned about the bad effects of privatization it should consider outsourcing exemptions for the EPA, the FDA, the Park Service and other agencies protecting public health and the environment."