USACE: Focused on a Global Mission

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remains committed to supporting our servicemembers abroad and solving the nation’s challenges at home.
By Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, P.E.,USA

Maj. Christina Cook, USA, Kandahar Vicinity Area Office Officer-in-Charge, inspects a facility outside of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. USACE’s two Afghanistan districts have completed more than $5.6 billion of construction to support Afghanistan National Security Forces and other programs, and have about $6 billion of work remaining. USACE Photo by Karla Marshall

Our nation and our military face difficult times. Even as we draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we face uncertainty in our geopolitical environment, and fiscal uncertainty at home. To guide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), we are focused on four main goals in our Campaign Plan.

  1. Support the warfighter.
  2. Transform civil works.
  3. Reduce disaster risks.
  4. Prepare for tomorrow.

Combatant Commands (COCOM).

USACE possesses unique authorities and capabilities that enables the Army, COCOMs and the United States to achieve their security objectives through a combination of regional divisions and globallyfocused centers, laboratories and institutes.

USACE has aligned a division with each COCOM region and maintains a full-time liaison on each COCOM staff to enable their theater security objectives. A major PACOM objective, for instance, is to strengthen regional alliances in the Pacific Region. USACE’s efforts to assist the four nations of the Mekong River Commission (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam), in close cooperation with the Chinese Water Ministry in conducting humanitarian assistance projects, exemplifies how we give the United States entry to nations where the Department of Defense (DOD) otherwise might not be able to go.

Afghanistan. USACE currently has two districts in Afghanistan, with about 900 deployed civilians: Transatlantic- North in Kabul and Transatlantic-South in Kandahar. By the end of this July, the two districts will merge to form Transatlantic-Afghanistan.

To date, the two districts have completed more than $5.6 billion of construction in Afghanistan, and have about $6 billion to go. Much of the work is focused on Afghanistan National Security Forces, the U.S./Coalition Forces Power Projection Program, the Counter-Narcotics/Border Management Initiative and the Strategic Reconstruction Program.

Iraq. USACE Gulf Area Office currently has 23 projects in progress, valued at about $300 million. Most are foreign military sales projects funded by the Iraqis, including construction for C-130s and F-16s aircraft purchased by the Iraqi government.

Military Construction. As the Army’s engineer and a DOD construction agent, USACE works with its installation management community partners to deliver high-quality critical facilities infrastructure that align with force structure demands, in a timely, cost-effective and safe manner.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle are the busiest in the nation and also receive more than 1.2 million visitors each year. The locks primarily operate as a navigation system, moving commercial and recreational vessels between Puget Sound, Washington Lake and Union Lake. PHOTO COURTESY CIVIL AIR PATROL

The current operating environment is driven by budget constraints, shifting geographic focus and adjustments to force structure. The existing real property inventory may not be the right type, or may fall short of current standards for life, health, safety and sustainability. Limited budgetary resources present real property holders with a suite of challenging capital investment decisions to determine when existing inventory should be sustained, disposed of, improved through targeted investments in restoration and modernization, or replaced with a new facility.

In this environment, new military construction is becoming a last resort and resources are being focused on targeted investments. For the Army, these focus areas are energy/utilities, the organic industrial base, vehicle maintenance, ranges/training support systems, and Reserve component readiness facilities and trainee barracks. USACE’s strategic objectives are to:

  • provide expertise and services to enable smart capital investment decisions;
  • provide technical excellence and capabilities across the full facilities life cycle (planning, design, construction, fitout, sustainment, restoration, modernization and disposal); and
  • be accountable for safe and cost-effective delivery of quality sustainable facilities that meet DOD and the nation’s needs.

The FY2013 military construction program that is currently being executed by USACE is $6 billion. Across the future years defense program, MILCON being executed by USACE is projected to decline to approximately a third of peak program levels in FY2010.

Installation Support. USACE supports 158 Army and 90 U.S. Air Force installations; yet as U.S. servicemembers return from overseas and we transition to a homebased force, our work on these installations will become even more vital.

On average, we provide about $3.7 billion of reimbursable facilities and public works support to Installation Management Command, the Air Force and DOD. This includes master planning, energy and sustainability projects, critical infrastructure and facilities maintenance, and repair and renovation work.

Energy, Sustainability and Environment. As the nation’s environmental engineer, USACE has more than 6,000 multidisciplinary environmental professionals working to find solutions to the nation’s environmental and sustainability challenges. In FY2012, USACE provided more than $1.5 billion in environmental program/ project management to DOD, executing two-thirds of the Army’s environmental program, in addition to civil works environmental work such as wetlands, ecosystem restoration and the Formerly Used Sites Remedial Action Program. USACE also is the steward for almost 12-million-acres of public lands and waters in 43 states.

USACE supports the Army as it implements 17 Net Zero pilot tests to consume only as much energy or water as the base produces on site. Earlier this year, USACE and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., unveiled, at 4.4-MW, the largest solar power system in the Army. By accessing resources at its new Regional Energy, Sustainable Design and Life-Cycle Cost Analysis Centers of Expertise, as well as the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, USACE is committed to helping the Army meet its ambitious energy efficiency and management goals.

Engineer Regiment. The education that engineers receive at the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has changed in recent years—oversight and supervision training are more important than ever, based on lessons learned from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The primary reason for this adjustment is that in just a few years we will be an Army that is primarily based in the United States. Deployment will require early entry to open a port, beachhead or airport to receive large quantities of military cargo— all engineer-intensive requirements. As the Army scales down in size, we must work with the Engineer Regiment to ensure a balance between the active and Reserve components so there is sufficient active-duty engineers for early combat operations.


We are committed to transforming our civil works process. We know that change is necessary.

Planning Modernization. USACE has a rigorous planning process. In the past two decades, however, our planning studies have become excessively complex. Therefore, we have developed several actions to improve the planning process, including implementing the “3-3-3” rule. Studies should take less than three years, cost less than $3 million and require no more than three levels of vertical coordination throughout the study process. Any schedule or budget exceeding these guidelines requires approval from my headquarters.

Col. Kent Savre, USA (left), USACE North Atlantic Division Commander, and Lt. Col. Chris Becking, USA, Commander, USACE Philadelphia District, evaluate the breach at Mantoloking, N.J., caused by Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012. PHOTO COURTESY USACE PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT

Budget Development. We need to continue implementing a system-based watershed approach when it comes to budget development, and consider all needs, projects and available funding. USACE has a $60 billion backlog of civil works projects, and only receives about $1.5 billion in construction funding for some of those projects annually. Our nation must make the hard choices about what should be top priority when it comes to funding and completing projects. A systems approach to budgeting will result in prioritizing investments with the highest returns, and benefits and outputs will be maximized.

Infrastructure Strategy. Most of our infrastructure was built in the last century, with no plan to maintain or recapitalize it. But many projects need significant investment to remain viable. To assess what should be kept and what should be decommissioned and to evaluate opportunities to deliver services with new approaches, USACE has identified and will implement four steps:

  • Develop methods of assessing the current value and level of service of its infrastructure to determine where priority investments must be applied.
  • Emphasize the interdependence of assets in a watershed to provide infrastructure that delivers the required service.
  • Evaluate assets in terms of their value to the nation.
  • Evaluate infrastructure based on current performance in meeting original project purposes, and how demands in the watershed have changed.

Methods of Delivery. USACE must be more consistent in delivering products, enhance technical competence and improve our ability to exceed customer expectations. To that end, we are examining how we deliver products and services to increase timeliness and cost effectiveness.


I have commanded USACE for about a year, and that time has been marked by three disaster responses—Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Sandy and a persistent drought that has affected much of the central and southern United States.

When Hurricane Isaac took aim at the Gulf Coast in August 2012, the new Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) reduced risk for the New Orleans metro areas inside the system. Isaac illustrated a key message: It is smarter to invest in risk reduction before disasters occur. After Hurricane Katrina, the federal government invested $130 billion in recovery efforts, including $14.6 billion for USACE to design and build HSDRRS. Imagine if we had invested those funds before Katrina. The outcome would have been very different.

The new system in place for Isaac was designed and built in just six years using state-of-the-art engineering and construction, thanks in part to full upfront funding, alternative National Environmental Policy Act arrangements and innovative contracting methods like design-build.

Hurricane Sandy similarly decimated a wide swath of urban areas. The response to this historic storm was a team effort, with every level of government involved. Together with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and New York City, we were tasked with several missions: from removing 475-million-gal of water from the city, to providing power to public facilities, to reopening the Port of New York and New Jersey and removing tons of debris.

In 2011, we saw record-high water levels throughout the nation. Yet, in 2012 and 2013, the Mississippi and Missouri River Region has faced one of the worst droughts on record. There is no quick, easy fix for the drought and we have worked closely with the Coast Guard and with industry to maintain navigation on these vital waterways.


Research and development is the most forward-leaning of our missions. USACE’s Engineer Research and Development Center, headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss., is one of the nation’s premier research and development resources, with seven laboratories and 2,500 employees, including 1,080 research engineers and scientists. In FY2012, they managed a budget of $2 billion, 80 percent of which directly supports our warfighters.

However, our scientific work does not end with the research lab and battlefield. The U.S. expects a total of 2.8 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) job openings by 2020 based on growth and retirements. As a nation, we will need to increase the number of college graduates by about 1 million more STEM professionals to fulfill that demand. USACE has intensified efforts to interest students in STEM courses and careers on both the national and local levels.

As we look to the future, the Army and the Corps of Engineers are operating in a more complex, fiscally restrained environment. Despite these challenges, we remain committed to working with our many partners to deliver engineering solutions for our nation’s toughest challenges.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, P.E., USA, is U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and USACE Commanding General. He can be reached through USACE HQ at 202-761-0001.