Building Resilience

Published July 17, 2015

  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is contributing to the Nation’s resilience to climate change, more frequent and more powerful natural hazards, man-made adverse events, changing conditions, and increasing uncertainty through our planning, engineering design, construction, operations and maintenance, and research and development activities.


Increasingly frequent extreme events, such as natural disasters, amplified by increasing urbanization and impacts from climate change, result in severe and costly impacts wherever they occur.  Resilience – of a person, project, system, and/or communities of any size – can help reduce negative consequences from adverse events.  USACE looks at resilience as four key actions: prepare, absorb, recover, and adapt that are taken to successfully address future adverse events. 


Resilience is not a new concept for the Corps of Engineers.  We have long incorporated resilience into our planning and projects design to deliver projects and systems that are both resilient at the project level and support community resilience.  Examples, such as the Mississippi River and Tributaries system after the devastating flood of 1927, the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System in New Orleans, the Fargo-Moorhead system now in progress that includes both structural (levees and diversion) and nonstructural (buyouts) components, and numerous non-structural projects (structure raisings) in lieu of levees demonstrate community and system resilience in addition to project resilience.


Our goal is to ensure that resilience is “mainstreamed” throughout the Corps of Engineers’ business practices, developing approaches to measure resilience, and remaining strong in our competencies in related areas such as engineering and nature-based feature design, contingency response, sustainability, environmental planning and cleanup, climate preparedness and risk.   

We’re also continuing to improve our technical competencies.  We’ve incorporated lessons learned from disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  We continue to look for ways we can improve the baseline or inherent resilience our projects provide to our customers through our Military Programs, Civil Works, interagency and international projects.  We are also conducting research and working with various partners to develop community resilience assessment tools that will facilitate and enable significant improvements in community resilience, both with USACE projects and aspects important to communities that are beyond our mission areas.

We’ll continue to develop our support of community resilience.  We want to help communities better understand and ‘buy down’ their risks and be more resilient.  As risk can never be eliminated, there is no absolute for resilience, but we can help communities articulate risks and identify alternatives to reduce the consequences to save lives and preserve limited resources.