The American public expects its government to act responsibly and to maintain and protect publicly-owned resources. For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) North Atlantic Division, those assets include the 53 dams it has built and now operates as well as countless floodwalls, three hurricane barriers, one natural storage area, five canals (Cape Cod, Cape May, the Chesapeake and Delaware, the Albemarle and Chesapeake, and the Dismal Swamp), 85-mi of breakwaters, four navigation locks and 12 high-rise bridges. Other assets include a fleet of vessels working in the ports of Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y., Philadelphia, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Norfolk, Va.
Brig. Gen. Peter A. (Duke) DeLuca, M.SAME, USA, the North Atlantic Division Commander, believes that his organization must reduce risks of failure by budgeting for regular maintenance. “We can’t have a catastrophic failure by deferring the care of our public assets. They also need to be fit to work as designed when placed under stress.”
Every member of every USACE team contributes to asset management. Routine tasks may be done by an administrative assistant entering an employee’s work time or a mechanic wrestling with the innards of a backhoe engine. Realty specialists track annual leases and out-grants. Project managers routinely update construction project schedules. An engineer may be supervising the rebuilding of a hydropower turbine. Information technology specialists do traffic analysis on a network. A construction representative might be reviewing the daily log sheets of a contractor installing sheet pile for environmental remediation. Resource managers total obligations and expenditures for the current fiscal year quarter. USACE boat operators run cross-channel surveys of the northeast’s major rivers. Each of these activities may be considered an act of asset management—and most are—even though they vary widely in their specifics.
When all these tasks are part of a single organization’s mission, as they are for USACE, it becomes a complex and difficult undertaking with a great return on the investment of time and effort. This return can be quite substantial and can include helping to save lives and reduce damage. Maintaining public assets rather than replacing them can also help reduce flood risks at a great savings.
The USACE asset management initiative employs a new way of thinking and is an effective means of limiting both costs and risk. Its inclusive and far-reaching nature focuses on viewing and integrating all organizational entities comprehensively across mission and geographical boundaries for a corporate perspective. Although assets in the business world are financial, real property, facilities, structures, equipment, resources, or any combination of the above, for the USACE Civil Works mission, asset management also includes all infrastructure system links and USACE-owned property over their lifecycle.
A key component of the USACE asset management process is the ability to identify risks both for the condition of any asset and the consequences of any degree of failure. Using that knowledge, investment decisions can be evaluated to determine the amount that risk can be reduced, and ultimately the investment and consequence of portfolio tradeoffs. Because the USACE Civil Works responsibilities stretch across the entire country and vary widely from region to region, an essential part of the overall strategy is the ability to examine assets individually as well as spatially across a watershed.
Moving Strategy Forward
Gen. DeLuca is promoting this asset-based, risk-informed decision making strategy for meeting the North Atlantic Division’s Civil Works responsibilities throughout its five USACE districts in the northeastern states. The USACE asset management strategy is still being developed and incrementally implemented, but the division has already met a key milestone: The USACE Facilities and Equipment Maintenance system was deployed to accurately track all maintenance tasks and costs performed on USACE property. This highly-automated system assists in maintenance planning and should reduce unscheduled outages through improved maintenance.
A national Operational Condition Assessment tool is scheduled to deploy at the USACE New York District’s Troy Lock and Dam and the USACE Norfolk District’s Deep Creek, South Mills and Great Bridge locks to produce a uniform, repeatable and objective assessment of the operating condition of each. The Troy Lock and Dam is on the Hudson River, 134-mi above the Battery in New York City. Originally completed in 1915, the structure was modified in 1987 for improved navigation and hydroelectric power purposes. The Deep Creek, South Mills and Great Bridge locks are on the Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia, and are being managed as valuable assets for the recreational boater and others.
According to Robert Leitch, who manages the asset management strategy at USACE headquarters in Washington, D.C., “This effort to use asset management techniques throughout the North Atlantic Division has been extremely helpful to developing the overall Corps’ strategy.” He added, “This is under development with the HQ asset management team and the regional asset managers. Additional milestones are targeted for six months to four years from now. Since one of the tenets of this strategy is to enhance good business practices already in use and develop them into a more comprehensive whole, achievement of these milestones should accelerate as asset management awareness grows.”
Life and Safety
Gen. DeLuca told his division and district leaders that his intent is to tie any asset directly to its mission contribution, or value to the nation, while assessing the risk to that value through condition assessments and analysis of the consequences of failure. Because each asset has varying levels of contribution to the major business lines (such as navigation, hydropower, flood risk management, or recreation), determining the value of each to the nation via each business line for a specific asset, as well as the risk, is critical to this approach.
“Why bother with asset management?” Gen. DeLuca asked the District Commanders reporting to him. “Because we cannot afford a failure. The armed forces and the American public depend upon us to act responsibly. Our floating plant, our flood damage reduction projects and every asset we manage is critical to the life and safety of others. We must do all do all we can to reduce the risks to the nation’s well-being, and the Corps’ asset management strategy is the way to do that.”