Members of the public may perceive government agencies as being one-dimensional, only serving a single purpose. For example, some individuals may assume that the Small Business Administration (SBA) only helps small businesses and that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) only deals with things in space. However, the SBA has a disaster loan program that helps disaster victims rebuild their homes and NASA publishes ocean water level data and tracks climate change on the planet. The truth is most federal agencies are considerably more complex and have significant responsibilities that go beyond the obvious and well-publicized activities normally associated with the agency.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a great example of a capability-rich organization that provides a wide variety of services to other non-Department of Defense federal agencies, international organizations, foreign governments, tribal nations, and state and local governments. The authority to perform work for other entities is made available via several laws including the Economy in Government Act [31 USC 1535], the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act [31 USC 6505], the Chief’s Economy Act [10 USC 3036(d)], the Federal Technology Transfer Act [15 USC 3710(a)], among others.
Through the Interagency and International Services (IIS) program, the Corps of Engineers offers assistance with managing natural resources such as land and water, environmental restoration and management, engineering and construction, relief and recovery, research and development, along with a host of other technical services (i.e., technical editing). The range of capabilities varies among the districts within the Corps of Engineers, which may dictate which district a particular agency reaches out to.
The majority of IIS work done by the Corps of Engineers is through a reimbursement agreement; the Corps of Engineers performs the necessary work using federal funds and the customer verifies that work was completed for the amount billed. In prior fiscal years, the Buffalo District provided services to federal agencies such as NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP), for example. Each agency signed an “Interagency Agreement” which outlined the reimbursement arrangements.
Interagency partnerships allow the Corps of Engineers to meet mission objectives in a variety of capacities. For example, the Buffalo District is currently involved in several projects to strengthen the nation’s borders by providing critical support to the CBP. Buffalo District’s Jason Powell is engaged with CBP in the development of new surveillance towers in the Rio Grande Valley and Tucson, while working on maintenance and repairs of existing towers along the southern U.S. border as well.
Another interagency collaborative effort is currently underway for an ecosystem restoration project at Seneca Bluffs in Buffalo, NY. EPA provided the funds for the project through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Buffalo District is providing the engineering and design, project management, and contract oversight expertise. Even though the EPA and the Buffalo District provided a lot of the heavy lifting, the Seneca Bluffs project was a direct result of a strong partnership between many agencies including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Erie County, the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Construction at Seneca Bluffs was recently completed but the planting of native species along with the eradication of invasive plants will continue in the spring.
“I’m very excited about this project. It’s going to restore and protect the shoreline and bring back the aquatic vegetation and life to the area”, said CPT Polashenski, Buffalo District Project Manager.
“The IIS program creates opportunities for the Corps of Engineers to extend to partner agencies our best resources—our people. Because of our diversified skillsets and history of successful project delivery, agencies trust the Buffalo District will do a good job and therefore ask us to do additional projects,” said William Kowalewski, Chief of the Buffalo District IIS program.
To learn more about the IIS program and what services are available, organizations may visit the Buffalo District website at http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Interagency-Support/ , send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the office directly at 716-879-4446.