† DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY (CIVIL WORKS)
FOR THE HEARING BEFORE THE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
WITHIN THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
18 JUNE 2002
MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE:†
I am Les Brownlee, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.† Thank you for inviting me here today.† Iím privileged to appear before you on behalf of the Administration to talk with you about the Army Corps of Engineers, our Nationís water resources, and charting a path toward continued modernization of both.
Iíve learned a lot about the Corps
since I assumed more direct management
Since that time, the Corps has always been a dedicated servant of the American people.†† For 200 years, the Nation has relied on the Corps to help resolve some of our †difficult problems.† In addition to its water resources responsibilities, the Corps has supported our military forces in time of war.† The Corps provided the technical expertise for the Manhattan Project.† Army engineers oversaw the building of the Panama Canal.† The Kennedy Space Center and the Johnson Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston are products of Corps efforts.† When a disaster strikes, Corps personnel in red jackets are there to help.† Research work by the Corps resulted in building designs that saved lives in the Pentagon on September 11th.† Today, 35,000 Corps employees work around the world to help improve the quality of life for people at home and abroad.† We also want to ensure, as Iím sure you do, that this country can continue to rely on the capability, expertise and leadership of the Corps now, and in the future.††
The distinguished history of the Army Corps of Engineers is the history of our Nation. As the Nation has changed its priorities and values, the Corps has also changed as it brought these priorities to reality.
It is with this history, tradition and spirit that I address the subject of todayís hearing Ė Corps reform.
This Administration supports the
goals of Corps reform and is willing to work with the Committee to eliminate unneeded
water projects to pursue only those
that are worthy; and to improve the ways in which we formulate projects and
fund them.† I therefore would propose that we focus our attention on the question that lies perhaps on a higher strategic plane:† Where
is our national policy regarding water resources heading next?† Our continued understanding of this question
is critical to setting the future direction of the Corps.† †
The people of America increasingly understand that our Nationís water resources are finite.† The debate over its use classically centers around this question:† Where should we give priority to the development of water resources for social and economic benefit and where should we give priority to the restoration of these resources to their natural state.†† Sometimes we must choose one over the other.† Sometimes we struggle to do both.† As science and engineering evolve, we can enhance our opportunity to find more balance between these options and, working together, make the right choices for the Nation.†††
We all agree that the Corps can and should modernize.† But modernization of the Corps needs to be in accordance with the future direction of our national policy.†
With your permission, I would like to give you my perspective on the water policy issue.† Here are just a few of the facets of the issue.
Our society is growing more complex.† We have competing interests and disputes in many watershedsóin the Everglades, along the Missouri River, the Mississippi River, the Columbia River, and many others.† These interests and disputes are intensified when we experience drought conditions as severe as we have now over much of the country.†
As members of this important committee, you are more aware than most that many Corps navigation projects have extensive maintenance and repair backlogs.††
While advances in science and technology can move us toward a new paradigm of more environmentally sustainable projects and integrated water resources management, we must develop more effective public policies built on a new public consensus.†
In terms of our Nationís priorities, the war on terrorism is, and should be, our main focus.[JW1]† We must prioritize our resources to ensure that we win this war.† We must also ensure that we are looking out for the Nationís long term future and ensure that our countryís economy remains strong.† At the same time, we also need to protect and sustain our Nationís natural resources.† Our financial resources are not unlimited.† We therefore must address the following questions:† What water resources investments do we most need to make now?† To what extent should these be a Federal responsibility?† To what extent should the Corps have this responsibility? Which investments should we not undertake until later?† What can we do without?† Should we continue all ongoing construction projects? Can we afford to build them all simultaneously?† Should we continue to operate, maintain, and rehabilitate every investment that we have made in navigation?
This Administration has insisted on much stronger coordination, collaboration, and cooperation among agencies within the Executive Branch and wants to work more closely with you to collaborate more effectively on the plans and policies we should put in place to address these long-term needs.†
I believe that it is important to focus our time and effort on such a debate at the national level.† Corps reform is important.† General Flowers and I agree that the Corps of Engineers should be changed and transformed to meet and better serve the evolving needs of the Nation, and General Flowers will address this in more detail.† However, reform of the Corps will follow in a more natural and logical way if we better define our policies and reach agreement on the right balance on the critical priorities.
The Corps professionalsí body of knowledge on water resources is unparalleled, and we must exploit that knowledge and associated skills to ensure that the Federal government can continue to meet the needs of its citizens.†
I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to testify before this distinguished committee, recognizing that your knowledge of these subjects far exceeds what I have been able to learn in these past few months.† I believe we have an opportunity, working together, to shape the Nationís future.† As you know better than I, these are serious times and it is often hard to concentrate on the long term when the more immediate becomes urgent.† I pledge to work with you on these important issues to achieve a national water policy that serves the best interest of all our citizens.†
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement, and I would be pleased to address any questions that you or the committee may have.