First, thank you, Senator Bond, for holding this Subcommittee hearing. I’d like to offer a special welcome to General Flowers. Today is likely to be the last time General Flowers appears before our Committee, as the change of command at the Corps will take place this July 1st. I thank you, General, for your service as Chief of Engineers and wish you well in your next endeavor. The Senate and the Corps will miss your leadership.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers has provided a valuable service to the nation for over 200 years. It has supported our troops in every armed conflict in our nation’s history, including the current operation in Iraq. The Corps has also been instrumental in the creation of the most dynamic inland waterway system in the world. Oklahoma, for example, has one of the nation’s most inland ports, which provides hundreds of millions in economic benefits to the state.
Oklahoma also benefits from the flood control provided by dozens of Corps projects, not to mention the renewable electricity that is produced by the Corps at many reservoirs, and clean drinking water.
While the past successes of the Corps are important to note, the focus of this hearing is the future water resource needs of the nation. And while I am aware of the legion of project requests that have come in from my fellow senators, an important component of this hearing is to examine the Corps’ capability, and determine what, if anything, we must do to ensure that the Army Corps is capable of meeting those needs. As our witnesses today will testify, there are significant and varied water resource needs across the nation, and it is important that we pass a WRDA bill this year to address those needs. In order to increase the chances of getting a WRDA signed into law this year, I would like to report a bill out of the full committee by Memorial Day. I know that sets an aggressive schedule, but I think we should take the motto on the shield of the Corps to heart, which translated into English reads: “Let Us Try. ” While it is important that we insure the Corps is capable of meeting our future water resource needs, it is also very important that we don’t demand more of Corps than they are humanly capable of providing. No federal agency could complete all of the projects requested by all the Senators. It is important to recognize that with the limited staff and limited budget available for the Corps, not to mention the already substantial backlog of existing Corps projects, it would be unproductive to take an “authorize everything” approach to drafting this bill. I think that our colleagues in the House have struck a good balance in terms of the overall size of the bill, a balance that we should strive for here in the Senate as well. And while I know that every Senator has his or her own priority projects, we should keep in mind that if each Senator demands everything, we may all end up with nothing. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we give clear direction to the Corps to focus on completing the highest priority and most beneficial projects.