U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still supporting U.S. Army missions after 200 years

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published March 31, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District employee Dave Mitchell (left) and Fort Drum employee Scott Siegfried (right) on site at Airfield Creek, as part of the effort to develop conceptual designs aimed to reduce erosion that poses possible risk of future flood events on the base at Fort Drum.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District employee Dave Mitchell (left) and Fort Drum employee Scott Siegfried (right) on site at Airfield Creek, as part of the effort to develop conceptual designs aimed to reduce erosion that poses possible risk of future flood events on the base at Fort Drum.

The relationship between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the broader U.S Army has been intricately interwoven since the establishment of the Corps of Engineers on March 16, 1802 (see “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Brief History”). In the early years of the nation, the Corps of Engineers’ mission focused on military fortifications but over time, their mission expanded to include strengthening our coastlines, eliminating navigation barriers, and protecting the environment. While the mission needs influencing the partnership has changed over the years, the Corps of Engineers continues to provide critical services to the U.S. Army at large. The main vehicle for providing these types of services is through programs like the Interagency and International Services (IIS) program.

The IIS program has been growing. In fiscal year 2016, the Corps of Engineers’ IIS activities for domestic stakeholders reflected approximately $1.6 billion—an increase of nearly 60 percent since fiscal year 2015. The Buffalo District, specifically, has shown a tremendous increase in its IIS program over the same period, and has performed work for a number of agencies such as the Veteran’s Administration (VA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for example.

“We provide a host of services that range from environmental remediation, to construction operations, to water resources management, and cost engineering—you name it, said Buffalo Districts’ Brent LaSpada, IIS Coordinator and Project Manager. “Because our service capabilities have become so diverse, we’ve recently updated our website to make it easier for other agencies to know what we can do for them.”

The Buffalo District recently assisted the U.S. Army on a project at Fort Drum, New York. The military installation is experiencing erosion issues along the banks of Airfield Creek. If gone unchecked the erosion could threaten the airstrip of the base in time. Buffalo District geotechnical engineer David Mitchell and hydrology and hydraulics engineer Daniel Bennett each visited the site to review the problem and to develop a suite of conceptual designs that would remedy the erosion issues. Jason Wagner, liaison on the military side of the partnership, worked with the two engineers to develop a plan of action.

“The Army prides itself on efficiency, timeliness, and effectiveness—and that’s when engaged with the enemy or in times of peace. When we have a project that is best handled by the Corps of Engineers, that’s who we contact,” said Jason Wagner (Natural Resources Chief, Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Drum).

Fort Drum was a recent example of Corps of Engineers doing work for the U.S. Army, but there are many important examples from history that document the strong partnership they share. For example, the Corps of Engineers created many of the bridges, roadways, forts, and batteries needed in the Civil War, both World War I and Word War II, Vietnam, and countless other wars and conflicts. When the enemy bombed a bridge, engineers would rebuild them. When no direct route lead to a strategic military location, engineers would install them. The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “to provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our nation's security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters”, a mission that is wholly embodied by the organization’s expansive IIS program.

The IIS program, like the support provided to Fort Drum, relies on 100 percent partner funding but agencies seeking IIS services and other forms of support may actually save considerable time and money in the long run. For example, it may take the U.S. Army up to six months to complete the process of securing and organizing work with a contractor while the Corps of Engineers is often able to use in-house labor or, when needed, get a contractor moving on a project within a few short months. The high level of service, combined with its ability to get work done relatively quickly makes a partnership with Corps of Engineers an attractive option.

Another benefit of the U.S Army/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers relationship is the ability of the former to get critical work done without having to rely on hiring new staff that have those skills—the Corps of Engineers already has the skills and already has formed strong relationships with contractors who have capabilities in complementary activities.

“From a spending perspective, it’s more cost efficient for the Army to seek services from us because there are inherent expenses associated with contracting work out,” said Brent LaSpada.

One of the Buffalo District’s strongest skills is in the area of environmental analysis and compliance and one of the IIS services that could have a great opportunity for growth is sediment transport modeling. In addition to the recently overhauled website, the Buffalo District just launched its “IIS Blueprint”, which is an interactive tool agencies can use to navigate their way through the many services the Buffalo District offers.

Some relationships are built to last and after two centuries of working hand-in-hand, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proven that. For more information about what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District can do for your organization, call 716-879-4446, visit the IIS webpage at http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Interagency-Support/, or send an e-mail to buffalo-iis@usace.army.mil.