Washington, DC -- A new reorganization by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that takes effect next week contradicts Bush Administration policies, breaks congressional commitments and violates Army guidance that the Corps not become a project promoter, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In a letter released today, PEER asks the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, J.P. Woodley, to put the Corps plan on hold.
Under the reorganization, entitled "USACE 2012" (signifying that it is supposed to remain in effect for the next nine years), the Corps will operate as a business, divided into "Regional Business Centers," each pushing nine lines of services ranging from navigation and flood control to recreation and environmental restoration. The Chief of Engineers, Lt. General Robert Flowers, claims personal credit for developing the plan and pushing it rapidly through to completion. The plan takes effect on October 1.
"This is a misguided vanity project for General Flowers that does nothing to help the Corps' professional staff do its job," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Flower's less than three-year tenure had been plagued by continuing scandals, shrinking budgets and growing calls for "Corps reform." "In many respects, the Corps already acts like a business -- Enron."
According to an analysis by PEER, the plan --
- Violates rules that the Corps be "an honest broker" of projects and not a project booster;
- Eliminates transparency in Corps planning by giving it control of supposedly "independent" peer review, eliminating line-item funding (thus allowing the Corps to shift funds without review) and giving the agency sole say in determining which projects it wants to construct; and
- Contradicts Bush Administration policies calling for a greater financial responsibility for local project sponsors. For example, the Corps plan calls for eliminating local cost sharing in feasibility studies, a move that means an additional $100 million cost to the federal treasury.
"The Corps is supposed to be a public agency, not a business peddling a line of services to corporate customers," Ruch concluded. "Cutting through the gung ho gobbledygook encapsulating this plan, the overall tone that comes through is one of supreme arrogance -- that the only problems the Corps faces is not enough funding and insufficient power to spend those funds as it sees fit."
Read PEER's letter to J.P. Woodley, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works