ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA. The collection, organization, accessibility, and interpretation of large sets of data are foundational to many of the major U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) decisions and actions across its many business lines. These data sets include performance and traffic volumes at USACE locks and the nation’s ports, cargo statistics of barges (inland waterways and ports, both domestic and international), statistics regarding uses and visitor days at USACE recreational sites, flood loss damages prevented by USACE levees, amounts and value of hydropower generated at USACE hydroelectric power facilities, and other information across USACE’s Civil Works program.
The increasing speed and computing capacity of computers, more sophisticated and powerful systems for storing and managing data (especially Cloud-based services), and widespread, routine use of smaller devices (e.g., tablets and smart phones) for collecting and sharing data present challenges and opportunities for large, data-driven federal agencies like USACE.
A significant ongoing initiative supported by USACE’s Institute for Water Resources (IWR) is its Civil Works Business Intelligence (CWBI) effort. Begun in the early 2010s with USACE senior leadership endorsement in 2018 of a CWBI Strategic Plan, CWBI aims to provide multiple benefits to USACE data management, decision making, and interfaces with project users and the public. These include ensuring cybersecurity best practices and standards, ease of data entry and visualization (including data entry by USACE project users from the private sector), more efficient use of InfoTech funding, reduced administrative, reporting, and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, and stronger decision support capacity.
The CWBI initiative provides considerable potential for data analysis and decision support. CWBI is transitioning toward a Cloud-based platform that integrates data from multiple USACE business lines into a single framework. The data is standardized and provides useful information on intra-sectoral linkages (such as data on dredging, vessels, cargo, lock performance), and broader connections (such as connecting navigation data with multi-modal transport systems).
Improved data linkages and enhanced spatial analysis capacity across the entire agency have great potential to provide useful analysis and output to support systems-based decisions. Examples include integrated water resources management, watershed-scale assessment, and trade-off assessments across water sectors. The CWBI platform merges geospatially-enabled data with decision support applications. CWBI also contains powerful visualization capacities that should prove valuable to USACE analysts, as well as those involved in public outreach and education efforts designed to improve knowledge of USACE programs, infrastructure, and decision processes.
Longer-term goals for the CWBI initiative include more efficient and better managed databases for all USACE business lines, continued database migration to the Cloud, better integration of USACE data with data from the private sector and other government agencies, and a stronger foundation for the agency’s analytical and forecasting capacities.
An overarching perspective of the CWBI program is a vision and means toward greater efficiencies, innovation, better decisions, and new collaborations for the US Army Corps of Engineers.
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