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A Core Function
For the better part of the past decade, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been seeking balance and synergy between natural systems and human development activities when it comes to its missions, facilities and operations. The Corps also seeks to ensure that its activities do not negatively impact the resource needs of future generations.

This ethic for sustainability has been part of the Corps’ culture since March 2002, when it adopted its Environmental Operating Principles. With these principles as its foundation, the Corps strives to not only meet the energy, water and waste reduction targets for the federal government as described in Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environment, Energy and Economic Performance, but also to think strategically to anticipate the need for adaptation to climate change challenges Corps missions may face in the not so distant future.

Bringing Actions Together
The Corps’ efforts to date have resulted in a robust set of independent actions, many of them in line with the Army’s “triple-bottom-line-plus” of sustainability – mission, environment, community and economic benefit. The goal now is for the Corps to bring all its independent actions together in a focused, comprehensive way so best practices are shared and replicated. The USACE Sustainability Plan (SP) serves as the roadmap to achieve the environmental, economic and energy goals called for in Executive Order 13514. And the Corps’ progress in achieving those goals is transparent as its actions are being tracked by a scorecard published by the Office of Management and Budget along with the scorecards of other federal agencies.

Leading the USACE sustainability efforts is Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), who is serving as the Corps’ Senior Sustainability Officer. She is being assisted by two Corps senior leadership governance bodies: the Strategic Sustainability Council, which oversees the Corps sustainability program and the Energy Governance Council, which is overseeing all energy activities within the Corps.

Sustainability Plan
The USACE SP is a dynamic document that will change and expand as the Corps does more to make sustainability a reality in all aspects of its missions. In addition to establishing 8 overall sustainability goals and identifying the methods to achieve them, the plan also sets the following sustainability priorities for fiscal year 2011-12:
  • Establish baselines and effective data collection systems;
  • Conduct energy and water audits at 25 percent of the covered facilities;
  • Implement sustainable energy, fuel and water efficiency technologies;
  • Hydropower modernization; increase generation and use of renewable energy;
  • Assess and identify opportunities within the vehicle fleet;
  • Repower selected vessels;
  • Target renovation projects for compliance with the “Guiding Principles”;
  • Increase data center energy efficiency; and,
  • Operationalize climate change adaption through pilot projects.
To meet the goals and targets within the Sustainability Plan, the Corps is focusing on two areas:  looking at internal operations to improve efficiencies in facilities it owns and operates; and at the services and products it provides to customers across civil, military and research and development business lines to ensure sustainability is being integrated to help them meet their sustainability goals and targets.

Recognizing Achievements
In FY2011 the Corps established an internal Sustainability Awards Program to recognize and reward excellence for the development, management, and transference of activities and/or programs that improve environmental quality, enhance the mission and help USACE reach its sustainability goals. A winner was selected in each of six categories, all of which went on to compete in the FY11 GreenGov Presidential Awards.

Bottom line 
The Corps is taking a system-based, continual improvement approach to meet the requirements laid out in Executive Order 13514 and in statute, to train personnel, and to refine priorities, programs, and metrics on the journey toward sustainability.

[As of 22 July 2011]