USACE Commander Highlights U.S. Infrastructure Issues

USACE Commander Highlights U.S. Infrastructure Issues

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces aging technology, shortage of funding and a lack of citizen awareness, said its commander.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s chief of engineers and USACE commanding general, spoke Thursday, at a Civil Works Infrastructure roundtable conference. He highlighted some of the major challenges the country faces and the possible solutions.

The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the U.S. infrastructure a D plus.

The country is listed as number 14 for infrastructure, according to Global Competitiveness Report (2012-13), released by the World Economic Forum.

“Our infrastructure is slipping,” Bostick said. “The federal government can’t do this on its own. At this financial pace, there’s only so much that can be done.”

In 2000, there was a 50 percent increase in the downtime of hydropower. In 2009, the disruptions have doubled.

“Constructions in the early days including lighthouses, jetties, piers and harbors. [We] carefully mapped navigation channels of the country,” Bostick said. “The challenge we face is that infrastructure is aging — the infrastructure that facilitates our economic growth, our quality of life, environmental health, our national security. It’s beginning to decline.”

In 1936, the annual civic works spending was about $70 per person. As of 2011, it was $18 per person.

Since 2009, delays and interruptions have more than doubled on the inland waterway locks and dams. Around 16 percent of dams are categorized as extremely or very high risk.

Bostick pointed out that the U.S. works efficiently in the midst of crisis because there is a clear objective and closer collaboration. He wants to be able to implement that drive toward improving the infrastructure.

“What worries me the most is that we will not react soon enough,” Bostick said. “We are good at responding to disasters. When the American people are in trouble, this country stands up like no other.”

Bostick proposes that the U.S. needs to invest $3.6 trillion in civil works by 2020.

“I feel the tide is turning when it comes to understanding the importance of our infrastructure and the need for investment,” Bostick said. “The president, the vice president and Congress have been very outspoken on the need to address our infrastructure challenges.”

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act 2014 was signed earlier this month — the first one since 2007. There were 34 construction projects authorized under the act for flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, and navigation.

This act is a step forward, thanks to the American people, Bostick said.

“There’s got to be a partnership between the environmental community and the Corps of Engineers,” Bostick said. “And industries have a role in this too.”

Bostick became the 53rd chief of engineers in 2012. He has served as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and as a special assistant to the secretary of Veteran Affairs.

As the commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he is responsible for more than 33,000 civilian employees and 700 military personnel, who provide management, construction support and engineering expertise in more than 130 countries around the world.

USACE, July 2, 2014