EPW CONFIRMATION HEARING 4/1/03
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your holding this hearing during such a busy work period and I am grateful for your leadership and support on issues that relate to the Corps of Engineers. In particular, I welcome an able nominee and very highly-regarded constituent, Mr. R.D. James who was recommended by Senator Lincoln from Arkansas and myself. Mr. James is a great advocate for the Corps and the people who the Corps serves on the Mississippi River and he has an acute understanding of the issues that relate to water resources management. In addition, R.D. is a good and trusted friend and I hope the Committee gives him a warm welcome and moves his nomination with dispatch because he is eager to go back to work.
The Corps is a trusted and critical partner to our communities, farmers, shippers, energy providers and others. Historic investment in Corps programs by visionaries of the past has yielded dramatic economic stimulus to our communities. The numbers speak for themselves.
Every year, Congress yields a referendum on the value of the Corps by making hundreds of individual project-by-project requests and additions to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill because the demand for these investments is high and its support is bipartisan and broad-based. The Corps does not undertake any projects that are not first authorized and then appropriated by Congress.
Regrettably, while we have elevated these investments over Administration requests, more is necessary and I look forward to working with the Chairman to ensure that the mission of the Corps remains not just viable but active. Further, I believe it is past time to make the kind of long-term investments that will do justice to the legacy of those forward-thinkers who have provided for our economic opportunity. The decisions today will be the basis for our competitiveness for our children and grandchildren and I have no intention of rolling back our commitment to their future.
When confirmed, Mr. Woodley will have a big job ahead of him that will test his skill and test his spine. It will require him to weigh competing views from passionate stakeholders to solve problems and ultimately make decisions and stand by them. The Corps is the Agency with the responsibility to represent not just fish and wildlife and not just producers and not just recreational fishermen. They have to balance all needs which is why they are in the vortex of controversy. Their job is made more difficult by the unwillingness of Congress to debate and identify priorities. Consequently, the Corps has been under a great deal of fire from people who don't get their way. With the Corps under increasing pressure to make difficult decisions, strong leadership is necessary to protect the role of the Corps and to ensure that the Agency is represented when inter-agency struggles arise. Few people want the job of Assistant Secretary but plenty of people in the Administration want to run the Corps from other Agencies.
There are dozens of issues that must be disposed of. Returning some certainty to the Missouri River Master Manual management is critical. The review began in the 1980s with no resolution. President Clinton and his Administration studied, proposed, withdrew, and re-studied this matter fro eight years without resolution. A decision needs to be made to remove the uncertainty which is stifling investment and perpetuating political unrest in the basin communities.
In the period after confirmation, I look forward to the opportunity to make the case on those issues critical to Missouri.