Archive for January, 2010

Help for Haiti

January 15th, 2010

The devastation in Haiti is, in a word, heartbreaking. I hope that you’ll join Paula and me in praying for the people of that nation, for those around the world who are still awaiting word on their loved ones, and for the thousands of volunteers, rescue teams, aid workers and service members who are there, or on their way to help.

At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we are gearing up and ready to support as needed. We are plugged into the State Dept., USAID, Federal Emergency Management Agency and US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and are ready to assist however any of those organizations need us.

We do have four engineers deploying today to support, 1 civil, 1 structural, 1 electrical, 1 hydrological. We also have two 8-person teams from our South Atlantic Division office who are on alert and prepared to deploy. That office has also identified and is preparing additional structural engineers for possible deployment.

In addition, we’ve alerted the 249th Engineer Battalion, which provides emergency power, to be ready to go on a moment’s notice, and have our best subject matter experts for commodities, infrastructure, navigation and debris removal standing by, as well.

So many people are looking for a way to help, and if you would like to give, I encourage you to go to USAID’s website for a list of ways you can make a difference.

This situation will continue to develop in the coming days, weeks and months – and I am sure that our role will continue to grow. I’ll keep you posted…

Contingency Operations, Emergency Response, International and Interagency Services , ,

Climate Change and USACE

January 6th, 2010

The weather here in Washington, DC is down-right cold, and we only recently saw the record snowfall of a few weeks ago melt enough that we could reasonably get around.  But what we’ve been experiencing is nothing compared to, say, Minnesota or Wisconsin. There was a news report the other day that said the low temperature in one part of Minnesota was so low (-37), that it would have to heat up 69 degrees just to not be below freezing. That’s just crazy cold. In other parts of the world, though, glaciers are melting at a record pace and drought still has people in California under water conservation orders.

 Needless to say, all this extreme weather poses an opportunity to talk about what we are doing at USACE with regard to climate change, in our role as the nation’s environmental engineers.  Gen. Casey, Army Chief of Staff, has said that we are in what he calls “an era of persistent conflict.” Part of that is because of climate change and how it can be a game-changer, creating “haves and “have-nots” around the world. 

I am a member of a United Nations committee called the “High-level Panel on Water and Disasters.”  Last year I presented our report in Istanbul, Turkey.  It was a phenomenal conference.  We came to the conclusion that we need to do much better planning – on a worldwide scale.  We have to ask ourselves – what will our response be? What might the early warnings be?  What would be the evacuation plans?  What would be those measures that an individual can take? What about local and state governments? Federal?  And I’m not just talking about the U.S. – we all need to be asking these questions, all around the world. 

Know that we are planning for all these contingencies, and more than that – we are putting the full capabilities of our Engineer Research and Development Center to work.  We are currently involved in several water studies about conservation and reuse, and we are always working on sustainable practices and technologies. In fact, at Fort Irwin in California, we are currently working on the Department of Defense’s largest solar energy project.

We also collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to write “Climate Change and Water Resources Management:  A Federal Perspective,” released last February, that assessed approaches to climate variability and change in water resources management, on which future agency policies, methods, and processes will be based.  And this past summer, we issued a new policy, “Incorporating Sea-Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs,” that instructs our project managers to be prepared to implement flexible planning and engineering adaptations that account for a range of possible changes.

The bottom line is – we are planning and preparing for – and doing everything we can to prevent – issues related to climate change.  It’s a very real concern that could have very real consequences all over the world, and we’re on it.

Environment/Sustainability, Research and Development , , ,