Washington, DC – The deterioration of fundamental Army Corps of Engineers planning skills now threatens “the very foundation of the civil works program,” according to an e-mail from a top Corps commander released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In a candid July 7 e-mail to all his division commanders, Major General Robert Griffin, the Director of Civil Works, admits – “[O]ur planning expertise and capability have declined to the point where specific action is required …to reverse this unacceptable trend….[T]his overall decline is beginning to have unacceptable consequences to the very foundation of the civil works program – the basis of our investment recommendations.”
During the past two years the Corps has been subjected to repeated scandals over attempts to “cook the books” of economic plans used to justify large construction projects. A number of investigations by the Pentagon, National Academy of Sciences and the General Accounting Office have faulted plans for individual projects as well as castigated inherent conflicts and weaknesses in Corps planning in general.
Echoing these complaints, Gen. Griffin castigates internally “developed planning models that cannot withstand national level scrutiny” and proposes to utilize an unspecified “nationally recognized peer review process.” But, despite his dire assessment, Gen. Griffin does not embrace independent peer review (not controlled by the Corps) or any of the other reforms currently proposed by members of Congress and public interest groups. Instead, Gen. Griffin recommends additional in-service training.
“All the training in the world won’t help the Corps as long as its leaders insist that employees produce predetermined project evaluations,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The fundamental weakness lies in Corps leadership, not its specialists; and it will take a lot more than night classes to cure that shortcoming,” said Ruch.
PEER represents a number of Corps employees who have documented problems in the Corps planning process.