The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) welcomes and encourages feedback from our partners and staff on the Revolutionize USACE Civil Works (CW) initiative. Some of the feedback that we have received up to October 2020 is summarized below. This list will be updated with USACE actions to address the input as those actions are further developed.
- Leverage Non-Federal Partners: USACE should pursue better ways to leverage relationships with non-federal partners, such as streamlining acceptance of non-Federal funding, utilizing the expertise of non-Federal partners, and sharing control and risk on projects.
ACTION: USACE is actively working the rule making process to update Sections 203 and 204 for non-Federal partners to execute studies and construction. In addition, USACE continues to support the development of pilot program under Section 1043(b) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) 2014 to allow non-Federal interests to carry out projects subject to Congressional language and appropriations.
- Access to Information: USACE should be more transparent and do a better job sharing information with the public and partners.
ACTION: USACE is currently looking at ways to revamp external webpages to make them more user friendly for our partners. Making the information easy for partners to find will support better information sharing. Additionally, the Director of Civil Works continues to send out USACE update emails to partners that include the latest information on policy and other matters, these messages can be found here. To be placed on the distribution list, please email CW.Infrastructure.Team@usace.army.mil.
- Policy and Guidance: Information on the latest Corps policy and guidance is not being shared with partners frequently or on a timely basis. This communication should not only come from HQ but the field as well. Partners have requested a more transparent and involved process with better two-way communication in the development of Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) implementation guidance.
ACTION: USACE is working to improve involvement of partners in the development of new WRDA implementation guidance. By conducting periodic external listening sessions, USACE can better understand our partners’ interests and work to incorporate these positions in our implementation guidance, as appropriate. We are also looking at additional ways to engage our partners directly during the development of these guidance documents prior to finalizing.
- Systems Approach and Benefits: USACE should do more comprehensive studies that look at an entire region or watershed and develop solutions that address a wide range of issues. There is also a need to look at the full range of benefits projects provide, not just economic benefits.
ACTION: Partner concerns about including the full range of benefits in project development have been heard by USACE. USACE is actively working with the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA(CW)) to evaluate how we can improve our evaluation of project benefits during the planning phase to make sure we fully consider all aspects.
- Technical Assistance: Partners have expressed significant support for USACE technical assistance programs like Silver Jackets and Planning Assistance to States and Tribes. Expanding these programs would be helpful in addition to ensuring partners and communities are fully aware of these opportunities for assistance.
ACTION: USACE agrees that the Silver Jackets and Planning Assistance to States programs are great models to follow and our staff will investigate ways to enhance these current models and other ways to better assist partners and communities with small-scale water resource projects.
Objective 1: Accelerate Project Delivery
- Non-Federal Involvement in Execution: Partners are very interested in getting more involved in the execution of projects and want USACE to help them do that through guidance and changes to processes. By bringing in the non-Federal partner sooner, issues with permitting and project partnership agreements can be dealt with faster to prevent delays. Empowering the partner to help design the project at the beginning could also support innovative project delivery.
ACTION: USACE is actively working with non-Federal partners to better understand what changes need to be made to improve non-Federal implementation of projects and better leverage non-Federal capabilities. USACE is working to educate staff (at all levels) about the benefits of early non-Federal partner involvement. It is critical that we include our non-Federal partners on our project delivery teams as active members. Non-Federal partners are encouraged to share specific challenges and success stories with the Revolutionize USACE CW team.
- Acquisition and Procurement Processes: USACE should explore ways to streamline the procurement process and increase sponsor participation.
ACTION: USACE is continuing to streamline the procurement process and identifying ways to improve contracting processes.
- Disincentives/Incentives for Project Delivery: Focusing on reducing disincentives of partnering with USACE would encourage greater involvement by non-Federal partners and get projects done faster. USACE should empower, encourage, and incentivize staff (at all levels) to be innovative and think outside of the traditional USACE processes.
ACTION: USACE is identifying changes that can be made to improve non-Federal execution of projects. USACE is also encouraging staff to be innovative and has specifically called for innovation in the execution of emergency supplemental projects. Innovative ideas can then be applied to non-supplemental project execution.
- Delegate Decision-Making: Partners have strongly encouraged USACE to continue to delegate decisions and would like to see this happen more broadly and consistently.
ACTION: USACE continues to explore areas where decisions can be delegated to Divisions and Districts to promote decision making at the local level. As of October 2020, we have delegated decisions in 27 areas to lower levels of the organization, leading to reduced processing times on these requests. One significant area of delegations and streamlining has occurred in the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), for more information visit here.
- Risk-Informed Decision-Making: There is support for this approach but partners have identified that the effort will only work if USACE leadership allows staff to take risks, make mistakes (on occasion) and seek more consistent application.
ACTION: A Civil Works and Military Programs Joint Director's Policy Memorandum - Risk Informed Decision Making for Program and Project Delivery - was published in May 2020.
- Non-Structural and Nature-Based Solutions: USACE needs to increase implementation of non-structural and nature-based solutions.
ACTION: USACE supports the use of non-structural and nature-based solutions. USACE has specific programs, including Engineering with Nature, with the goals of implementing these types of measures.
Objective 2: Transform Financing and Budgeting
- Funding Challenges: Lack of financial resources are an issue that partners face at all levels. Coordination across Federal agencies is needed to let partners know what funding opportunities are available to them to complete water resources projects.
ACTION: USACE is looking into how best to compile resources for partners so that they are better aware of what opportunities are available to them. Federal flood risk management resources can be found here.
- Contributed Funds: Many partners have requested that USACE evaluate the contributed funds process and find ways to improve it. USACE needs to get better at accepting funding from partners and the current process for acceptance of funds is broken.
ACTION: USACE is aware of the concerns and plans to seek ways to streamline and improve the contributed funds process. USACE is reviewing the policies of other Federal agencies to identify additional concepts to enable use of non-Federal funds.
- Metrics: A review of budget and performance metrics has been encouraged as partners have expressed concerns with the current metrics.
ACTION: USACE has developed proposals for consideration that aim to reduce the USACE construction portfolio while improving overall delivery and leveraging limited Federal funding.
- Multi-Year Capital Plan: Partners are supportive of a multi-year action plan and the transparency such a plan would provide, acknowledging that funding comes in one-year increments.
ACTION: USACE acknowledges that long-term capital planning is a superior planning approach for implementation of large capital projects. USACE is actively working to develop a multi-year investment strategy that would help address this issue.
- Benefit Cost Analysis: Partners have encouraged USACE to look at improving benefit cost analysis and a more holistic approach to benefits.
ACTION: USACE has the ability to examine and consider factors beyond the benefit to cost ratio when making planning decisions.
- Support for WIFIA: Partners support the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program, and the need for this type of Federal assistance.
ACTION: USACE is working with the Administration and Congress to further develop the Corps Water Infrastructure Financing Program (CWIFP) authorized by WIFIA. More information on the program can be found here.
- P3 Pilot Program: There is support for the use of the Public Private Partnership (P3) pilot program for disaster/supplemental projects and incentivizing investment through these proposals.
ACTION: USACE is further developing three P3 pilot projects. Further information on the program and how to apply can be found on the P3 website here.
Objective 3: Improve Permitting and Regulation Reform
- Coordination with Partners: Improve coordination with Tribes and States regarding decisions that will impact them and their programs. Consultation with Tribes should happen early and often. Developing new distribution tools/methods and improving USACE websites were suggested as ways to improve communication with partners.
ACTION: USACE has conducted several outreach events and State/Tribal meetings associated with the Waters of the U.S. and other rule making efforts. Several other initiatives will undergo Office of Management and Budget Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs review which includes coordination with States/Tribes and agencies. USACE will continue to explore coordination opportunities as appropriate.
- Information and Tracking Systems: To increase transparency, partners would like to see improvements to USACE online permit processing and tracking systems. An online database of Corps real estate would help in identifying where Section 408 permissions may be required.
ACTION: USACE has enhanced our tracking database to provide public access to Section 404/10/103 and Section 408 requests in a single location. USACE plans to continue updating our tracking databases to further enhance public access to information.
- Implementation of Guidance: Ensure consistent application of new Regulations and guidance, particularly the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). There may be some inconsistencies across Districts in their use and acceptance of third party collected data and use of remote sensing tools.
ACTION: USACE is working to ensure that Regulations and guidance are consistently applied across the agency. HQUSACE has increased regular communication with the field to ensure consistent messaging and implementation and has developed and implemented internal training webinars, particularly for use and interpretation of the NWPR. USACE is considering best practices for regional and joint agency/partner training.
- 2008 Mitigation Rule: Partners have identified opportunities for improvements if changes are made to the rule including with the Interagency Review Team and out of kind mitigation.
ACTION: USACE and U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are revisiting the 2008 Mitigation Rule. The current timeline for the release of the proposed Mitigation Rule for public comment is early 2021.
- One Federal Decision (OFD): While many partners have mentioned that the process has been difficult for the first few projects going through OFD, they are very appreciative of USACE’s efforts on this initiative and believe there will be significant benefits going forward.
ACTION: USACE implementation guidance for OFD was published in September 2018. USACE continues to work through OFD for a number of projects as the lead or cooperating agency.
- Share Best Practices: As States take on more permitting efforts, they ask that USACE share best practices and lessons learned to help guide their activities.
ACTION: USACE will consider opportunities to collaborate with State agencies in an effort to minimize conflicts between State and Federal regulatory programs.
- Training and Education: More training and education, including joint trainings with partners and USACE staff, are needed to address some of the issues raised by partners. Webinars and recordings are very helpful for USACE staff and partners to understand guidance and changes as well.
ACTION: The USACE Regulatory program has emphasized outreach efforts at the District and State level. We will continue to explore opportunities to share information as appropriate at all levels.
- Two-Way Communication: Communicating proactively and effectively with partners has been a major area of feedback. The need for USACE to do much more two-way communication has been expressed by many partners. Coordinating communication efforts across USACE disciplines is also needed.
ACTION: The Revolutionize USACE CW Team has been working to better communicate with partners on our efforts to revolutionize CW. The need to continue to improve communication across the USACE is recognized and is a major part of our efforts.
- Culture Change: Partners have encouraged USACE to continue pushing culture change for the agency through Revolutionize USACE CW. They see a lack of openness to exploring innovative ideas and new ways of doing things. Ensuring the culture change supported by this initiative has traction and is achieved throughout the agency is key.
ACTION: USACE Headquarters is working to set the conditions that will encourage culture change throughout the agency.
- Partner Engagement: Improving proactive partner engagement, particularly at the field level, should be encouraged. Districts should be empowered to take a leadership role to engage local partners.
ACTION: USACE is collecting best practices on partner engagement, such as quarterly partner meetings, and will share them with staff across the agency to encourage improvements. Additionally, memorandums and other communication from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works have been released and encourage USACE staff to proactively engage partners with consistent messages at all levels of the organization.
- Responsiveness to Sponsors: Improving communication and collaboration with sponsors throughout various steps of a project has been encouraged by partners. Including project sponsor input and assistance where possible is also desired.
ACTION: Through Revolutionize USACE CW, USACE is working to educate staff at all levels about the benefits of engaging partners at every step of a project.
- Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) Plans: Partners have suggested that every project delivery team should have a STRATCOM plan that they implement to guide communication with all interested parties.
ACTION: Every project is required to have a communication strategy; however, some STRATCOMs are stronger than others. USACE is working to ensure all project delivery teams understand the benefits of having a proactive STRATCOM. Earlier this year, USACE released additional guidance for stakeholder engagement, collaboration, and coordination in Civil Works planning studies, found here.