Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

Depending on Small Business

December 13th, 2010

President Obama has called small business the “backbone of our economy.” At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we recognize the immense value that small businesses offer our Nation by creating jobs — they employ 50% of U.S. workers — and energizing local communities. We greatly depend on small businesses to help us provide value to the Nation through any number of projects and programs that support our military and civil works missions at home and in 39 nations around the world.

Last week, we were proud to participate in the Society of American Military Engineers’ Small Business Conference near Dallas, Texas. It gave us a chance for us to thank the small business community for the hard work they’ve done for our Nation this past year and hear from them what we can do to help make it easier to serve.

In 2010, they provided our Nation a tremendous value by executing more than $9.7 billion on USACE projects worldwide, including nearly $900 million of which was executed by small businesses owned by our disabled veterans. That’s building strong!

But these contracts are more than numbers on a ledger. They represent the innovation and determination of small business owners to help strengthen our Nation’s infrastructure and economy by developing and implementing environmentally sustainable solutions, constructing flood risk management projects, and developing programs that aim to energize our Nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math, to name just a few.

Small business are vital to meeting the engineering demands of our Country. We need them to continue to thrive so that they can share their expertise, ingenuity and energy to help build our Country STRONG!


Contracting, Corps Projects, Employment, Infrastructure, Small Business ,

Levee Vegetation and Public Safety

June 11th, 2009

There is an Associated Press article out today that requires a direct response, because it is inaccurate in many ways. The article is about the Corps’ Levee Vegetation Policy, which has been in existence for decades.

First, let me just correct the record.

Error: The Corps ordered thousands of trees chopped down.

Fact: The Corps notifies levee project sponsors of operation and maintenance deficiencies, which may include vegetation, animal burrows, encroachments, and closure structures.  These deficiencies must be corrected to remain eligible in this voluntary program for federal rehabilitation and repair assistance following a flood. 

Error: The Corps “is on a mission to chop down every tree in the country that grows within 15 feet of a levee…..”

Fact: The mission of the Corps’ levee safety program is to make sure levee systems are reliable and do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property or the environment, with the emphasis on public safety.  The Corps has specific authorities for approximately 2,000 levees, or 14,000 miles across the country; not the 100,000 miles stated by the AP. 

Error: The anti-tree policy arose from criticism directed at the Corps after Katrina.

Fact: The Corps’ vegetation management standards are not new, and the Corps has considered them critical to flood damage reduction project reliability for decades. 

The bottom line is – Public safety is the number one priority of the Corps Levee Safety Program and the consequences of Operation and Maintenance issues, like having vegetation on levees, floodwalls or dams, go beyond the possibility of a breach or failure.  While vegetation and other encroachments can harm the structural integrity of the infrastructure, it can also obscure visibility for visual inspections, impede access for maintenance and inspection, and/or hinder emergency flood fighting operations. Operation and maintenance is a critical component to overall public safety.

I’ve seen levees with garages, storage sheds and pools built into them, and I’ve seen trees ripped out of a levee by flood waters.          

We’ve flood-fought levees where tree roots cause seepage through and under levees and where tree roots clogged critical drainage structures such as relief wells. We’ve even seen tree roots damage flood walls and steel sheet piling. Fortunately, we’ve been able to find these problems and intervene just in time with safety measures before the levee breaches but we must not rely on intervention, but provide greater reliability through well maintained infrastructure.

The bottom line with any levee system is that you are only as strong as your weakest link – so we must have clear policies and standards, which include vegetation management, consistently applied and enforced through continuous and periodic inspections and assessments.

The Corps’ policies on vegetation are based on available engineering and scientific data – and they have been validated with an Independent External Peer Review and Independent Technical Review.

Existing scientific literature doesn’t conclusively validate or invalidate our vegetation standards.  But we are looking into it – we are in the midst of a two-year research program to enable reassessment of our engineering-based understanding of the public safety consequences of vegetation on flood damage reduction projects.

Any change to current USACE vegetation management policy and standards will be based upon sound engineering and science, and will not adversely affect public safety – because that is our #1 priority.

Infrastructure, Levees , , , , ,

Corps Celebrates Earth Day

April 22nd, 2009

Today is Earth Day, and we began celebrating this important initiative last weekend by taking part in the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall. The fifth annual Expo, hosted by EPA, showcased innovative sustainable designs and projects created by student teams from colleges around the country. USACE had two booths, staffed by our hard-working volunteers, that featured our Environmental Community of Practice and our lakes and recreation areas.

USACE senior leaders tour the National Sustainable Design Expo

USACE senior leaders tour the National Sustainable Design Expo

While the event was a great opportunity to attract and encourage graduating college students to consider joining our team, the best part was seeing the great desire these students have to make the world more sustainable.

Sustainable energy is a crucial mission that we are proud to play a key role in accomplishing. The Army and Department of Defense are heavily involved in reducing energy consumption and finding renewable and alternative forms of energy, and your Corps of Engineers is a key player in this effort.

Base Realignment and Closure and our historically large, military construction mission provide a golden opportunity. For this fiscal year, which began in October, the Army budgeted for and began building 14 exciting, renewable-energy projects. Two projects worth noting are a geothermal heating and cooling project at Fort Sill that will save nearly 2,500 barrels of oil per year, and solar walls and rehabilitation shops at Fort Knox, which will save 2,400 barrels of oil per year. These projects will have a lasting impact to the economic and environmental health of this Nation. I love it!

We are working hard to meet Army sustainability goals, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and our energy contractors have already invested more than $418 million in 70 energy related infrastructure projects at 30 Army installations over the past few years. We project a total contractor investment of about $194 million, of which $58 million is for renewable energy-related projects this fiscal year.

The Corps of Engineers is working hard to build this nation “energy strong” now and for the future.

Corps Projects, Environment/Sustainability, Infrastructure , , , ,

The Pulse and the Mitigation

March 28th, 2008

I wanted to give you a quick update on the Missouri River “pulse” and mitigation actions we are taking to eliminate its effects downstream of Kansas City.

We did initiate the seasonal “pulse” to release additional water from the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River in South Dakota at midnight Tuesday night (March 25). This is something we’re required by law to do so that there is enough water in the upper reaches of the river for the endangered pallid sturgeon to spawn…areas that did not receive the “natural pulse” of recent rains.

I can’t stress enough that we wouldn’t have released this in the first place if we had felt it would negatively impact health and safety. I do understand, however, that many people are worried, and because of that, we worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find an alternative that will alleviate any concerns about flooding downstream.

We are reducing the amount of water we release from five other reservoirs in the Kansas City area that feed into the river system farther down the line. This will eliminate the effect of the pulse below Kansas City completely, and remove any risk to the areas impacted by the recent flooding.

Thank you for your feedback and for keeping us accountable. It is our mission and commitment to protect public health and human safety as we fulfill our responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Civil Works, Corps Projects, Infrastructure, Locks and Dams , , , , ,

USACE Around the World Part 3 – New York City

March 18th, 2008
Guest Blog by MG Bo Temple
(Original Posted March 18, 2008)
Well, I put on my traveling boots again, this time for a much shorter trip to Fort Drum, N.Y. It was ironic to me that the weather in New York was colder than in Alaska a week earlier!
As I drove around the installation, I saw new facilities being constructed around every corner. Over the next few years, we’ll be working hard to build facilities to support the addition of three brigade combat teams. Before those units can come to Fort Drum, we have to build new headquarters, barracks, housing, child development centers, and various other support facilities.
This is one of the many facilities under construction in NY.

This is one of the many facilities under construction in NY.

This enormous boom in construction is being skillfully handled by a program manager named Ed, and his highly motivated team. One of the best parts of my job is meeting members of our team – I really enjoyed visiting with all of the folks at Fort Drum, like Jerry, one of our team leaders. We all have important jobs to do in support of our nation’s defense – I was reminded of this when I met a program analyst named Cheryl who has been working very hard over the past year to support the Soldiers on the installation while her husband was bravely serving in Iraq.
On my visit I also toured a Child Development Center that is under construction.  I met the project engineer team leader Brett, the building contractor, and, I was surprised to meet the customer, Becky. In fact, it was Becky, who serves as the operational specialist for child development, who walked me through the site pointing out the features of the building.  It was interesting to see the relationship that the area office had fostered between her and the contractor to ensure the finished project will be what the customer needs. I can tell that our children are in good hands.
I later toured a storage and maintenance facility for the fleet of snow removal equipment at the Wheeler Sack Army Airfield.  The project engineer Dick, also known as “Rambo-Tool Man”, had helped deliver a high quality facility on time and below the programmed amount. The customer had moved into the facility only days before my visit, and they were very pleased by the final product.
Throughout my travels I saw a number of successful projects and met a number of outstanding people.  For every name I mentioned above (or in the other two blog posts), there are dozens of others whose hard work and dedication are critical to providing the quality of facilities we are delivering today. I was amazed by the number of projects that were being constructed on time, within cost, and without accidents or injuries.  The Corps’ professional staff is working hard to make sure that our service members and their families have facilities for work and leisure activities that are commensurate with the tremendous level of service they are providing to our great nation.
It was a great whirlwind of a trip. Thanks for letting me share some of my experiences with you.

Corps Projects, Family Readiness, Infrastructure, Military Programs

USACE Around the World Part 1 Japan

March 14th, 2008

(Originally posted March 14, 2008)

Guest Posting by MG Bo Temple
LTG Van Antwerp asked me to share my experiences from my visit to Japan last month. In February, I spent some time with District Engineer Colonel Barrett Holmes and his team.
I had the pleasure of joining the Japan Engineer District at the annual Senior Engineer Conference, a joint forum sponsored by the District and the United States Forces Japan. At the conference, we discussed a variety of issues involving the current and future construction programs taking place throughout Japan.  The event was a big success due to the hard work of people like Keily, known by most as “Snoopy.”
During my trip, I visited a number of the key projects sites on the main Japanese island of Honshu, including a wharf upgrade project at Yokosuka where the U.S. Navy will soon deploy the USS George Washington and its crew. Our team is upgrading the berth itself, and building a high quality water facility, a new power station facility, and a series of utility tunnels that will connect the generation plant to the wharf upgrades. These projects wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding work of people like Arnold, the project engineer for the wharf upgrade, and Yoshio, the quality assurance representative and electrical engineer on the power upgrades.
A project briefing at the Iawakuni airstrip in Japan

A project briefing at the Iwakuni airstrip in Japan

From Yokosuka I traveled south to Iwakuni.  The folks there are literally moving mountains.  The Marine Corps requires a new runway, but the only way to expand the base is out into the water.  So, Setsuharu, and others on the team there, are making land where there was none. Through exemplary technical and leadership skills they relocated more than 21 million cubic meters of earth from a nearby mountaintop to create 533 acres of new land for the new runway.  Their close coordination with the Government of Japan, the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps made this project happen.  

My final stop was in Okinawa, where I visited the vast array of projects that our dedicated people are responsible for. Dawn, the Okinawa Area Engineer, and Dewai, the chief of Project Management Branch-Okinawa, have been instrumental in managing the diverse joint program throughout the island.
I visited a beautiful middle school that will be ready for students next year.  I was truly impressed by the quality of construction that the Ryukyu resident engineer, Shigeru, and the rest of the team are delivering.  These facilities are on par with the finest schools in any city in the United States – service members and their families who are considering an assignment in Okinawa can feel good about their quality of life.

In northern Okinawa, I visited a range construction program led by Norman.  He and his crew are working hard to ensure our troops have quality facilities to hone their war-fighting skills. Given the rugged terrain, they are employing a number of creative ideas to achieve the desired training effect on each range.
I had a great visit with the Japan Engineer District team – they truly are providing quality projects for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their Families living and working in Japan.
Next time, I’ll tell you about my wild adventures going “north to Alaska!”

Corps Projects, Infrastructure, International and Interagency Services, Military Programs , , , , , , , ,

Iraq Reconstruction

February 13th, 2008
(Originally Posted Feb 13, 2008) 
When I first took command, I sat down with all of my senior leaders and developed the priorities and tenets that will drive this organization during my tenure. One of the tenets was to have transparent communication, and thanks to technology, that’s easier than I thought!  So I’d like to dedicate my first posting to one of our Corps priorities – supporting the Global War on Terror.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Corps offices in Iraq and was able to tour a few of the projects our dedicated servicemembers, Civilians and contractors are working so hard on. I was there to mark the Gulf Region Division’s (GRD) 4th anniversary in Iraq, and it was awe inspiring to reflect on how much this organization has done for Iraq and its people. With more than 800 Civilian and military personnel currently deployed to the region, we have completed more than 4,300 projects along side some 40,000 Iraqis. When talking with our teammates at GRD, I found that their experiences in Iraq have given them a new and positive perspective on life. I am humbled by their sacrifices.
We had big plans for the trip with lots of projects to see, but unfortunately, the weather had other things in mind, so we had to pass on some of our original scheduled site visits. But in addition to our time in Baghad at GRD, I was able to visit Balad Air Base and As Sulaymaniyah.
One project I’d like to talk about is the renovation of Cham Chamal Prison in As Sulaymaniyah, in northeast Iraq. The facility was built years ago under Saddam Hussein, who used it as a prison to lock away thousands of Kurds; still a very sensitive subject for the Kurdish people in the region. Today, a Kurdish contractor is doing the renovations and upgrades, and work is well under way and on schedule, to make it into a high security confinement facility that the government of Iraq can use for years to come.
But one thing you just don’t see much of in the mainstream media, is the quality of life improvements I was able to see first hand: busy streets, markets overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and people going about their daily routines – all very positive signs of progress for that region.
Throughout Iraq, there is major progress to report. The country has more capacity to generate power today than during the Saddam Regime, and we’re spreading it more equitably across the country. Our efforts have almost doubled Iraq’s ability to generate power. There are families in Anbar Province that have never had power before – and now they do! Essential services, like hospitals, water sewage pump stations and fire stations have power 24 hours a day. There’s a 3 tiered approach to distribution, which is that first, essential services get power, then what remains is filtered to the government buildings, and then to the residents and private businesses, so that’s why some people, in Baghdad for example, who used to get power all the time, are experiencing less than before – but throughout the country it is a major improvement.
Add to that the fact that we are chasing an ever-changing goal – demand has increased more than 70 percent since 2004 because Iraqis are purchasing more energy-intensive products such as air conditioners, refrigerators, computers and other electronics. This is a good thing! It means the economy is growing stronger.
I was really disappointed that we were unable to visit the Basrah Children’s Hospital, which was one of the stops nixed for weather issues. But, the progress there is really promising – it’s now close to 80% complete. Along with Project HOPE, we are committed to complete the hospital project on schedule, and I am going to try again next time to be able to see it in person.
Looking ahead to the future, we remain committed to integrating Iraqi women and women-owned businesses as a component of building the workforce and infrastructure as Iraq gets closer to managing all of these services on its own.
In my view, winning in Iraq and Afghanistan takes more than military efforts alone. The work our leaders and teammates are doing on the infrastructure, in direct coordination with the Iraqi ministries, is building capacity and strengthening their own capabilities. I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Corps, who have a key role in this fight.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. I look forward to the dialog!
Best, Van

Contingency Operations, Corps Projects, Infrastructure, International and Interagency Services, Iraq, Military Programs , , , , , , , , , , , , ,