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US Army Corps of Engineers

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is made up of approximately 34,600 civilian and 650 military men and women. Our military and civilian engineers, scientists and other specialists work hand in hand as leaders in engineering and environmental matters. Our diverse workforce of biologists, engineers, geologists, hydrologists, natural resource managers and other professionals meets the demands of changing times and requirements as a vital part of America's Army.

The Chief of Engineers has separate and distinct command and staff responsibilities. As a staff officer at the Pentagon, the Chief advises the Army on engineering matters and serves as the Army's topographer and the proponent for real estate and other related engineering programs. As commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Chief of Engineers leads a major Army command that is the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency. His office defines policy and guidance and plans direction for the organizations within the Corps.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters is made up of made up of an Executive Office and 17 Staff Principals. The Headquarters, located in Washington, DC, creates policy and plans future direction of all the other Corps organizations. The Corps is organized geographically into 8 divisions in the US and 41 subordinate districts throughout the US, Asia and Europe. The districts oversee project offices throughout the world. Divisions and districts are defined by watershed boundaries, not by states. The Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is the US Army Corps of Engineers research and development command. ERDC consists of eight unique laboratories.

From directing the fortifications at the Battle of Bunker Hill through five other wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Corps has buttressed U.S. military operations with its design, construction and engineering expertise. Because the Corps has more than 35,000 civilian employees, it's sometimes easy to forget the agency's military ties. Moreover, in recent months, some have questioned the relevance of the Corps, particularly the role of its civil works in the overall mission of fighting and winning wars.

The Corps used to have 47 thousand employees and an annual budget of $ 8.6 billion. Today the Corps has 35 thousand employees and an annual budget of over $12 billion. Part of this strategy is to keep a core workforce to do what the nation wants them to do. The "backlog" in unfunded construction approved by Congress is approximately $38 billion. Only about $2 billion a year is provided for new construction. If this scenario is allowed to continue, it will take 19 years to eliminate the backlog if there were no other new projects. On top of this, over the past several years, there has been a lot of deferred maintenance. This will grow from about $ 435 million to an $825 million "backlog" in FY2002. The Bush Administration proposed to focus on the high use commercial harbors or main channels on the Mississippi River rather than a "salami slice" budget.

The Corps carries on a proud heritage that began in 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized the first Chief Engineer whose first task was to build fortifications near Boston at Bunker Hill. In 1802 a corps of engineers was stationed at West Point and constituted the nation's first military academy. The United States Military Academy was under the direction of the Corps of Engineers until 1866. With the founding of West Point, the Corps began a tradition of military and civil works missions that continues to this day.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers traces its origins to the American Revolution. On June 16, 1775, when the Continental Congress established the Army, it provided for a Chief of Engineers. Colonel Richard Gridley, the first to hold that position, set to work immediately directing fortifications during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Congress added companies of engineer troops, or sappers and miners, to the Army and, in 1779, formed them into a distinct Corps of Engineers. The Engineers' finest hour was at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, which forced a British surrender. When war with Britain threatened again in 1794, Congress appointed temporary engineers to fortify key harbors. In 1802, the Corps of Engineers was made permanent and took charge of the military academy at West Point, N.Y.

Constructing seacoast fortifications continued as the engineers' primary responsibility. The Corps again saw combat in the War of 1812. That war demonstrated the need to improve the nation's defense and transportation systems. In 1824, the General Survey Act authorized the President to use Army engineers to survey road and canal routes. A separate measure appropriated $75,000 to employ public engineers to improve navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, beginning the Army's long involvement in civil works activities.

In May 1846, on the eve of the Mexican War, Congress authorized the first regular company of engineer troops. During the Civil War, their numbers increased, as engineer officers commanded combined troops, conducted surveys and reconnaissance, and directed siege operations. In the following decade, the Corps' involvement in civil works mushroomed as appropriations jumped from $3.5 million for 49 projects and 26 surveys in 1866 to $19 million for 371 projects and 135 surveys in 1882. Key developments occurred on the Ohio River which the Corps had canalized to a depth of nine feet by 1929, and on the lower Mississippi, where growing pressures for navigation and flood control led Congress to establish the Mississippi River Commission in 1879. This permanent body included three Corps of Engineers officers.

As engineers debated effective flood protection measures, federal responsibility for flood control grew in response to recurring floods. With legislation in 1928, attention broadened from the Mississippi to include its tributaries. The Flood Control Act of 1936 recognized flood control in general as a proper activity of the federal government and gave responsibility for most federal projects to the Corps of Engineers.

After World War II, multi-purpose projects involving navigation, water storage, irrigation, power and recreation, in addition to flood control, predominated. In the process, the Corps became a leading producer of hydroelectric power. The Corps role in protecting the natural environment also expanded. It was influential in the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park in 1874 and, in the 1870s, began to regulate construction of bridges to prevent obstruction to navigation. In 1899, Congress gave the Corps authority to regulate almost all kinds of obstructions to navigation.

The Corps of Engineers has had a special relationship with the District of Columbia since 1791, when former Army engineer Pierre L'Enfant design the master plan for the new capital. In the mid-19th century, Lieutenant Montgomery C. Migs supervised construction of a permanent water supply system for the cities or Washington and Georgetown. In the post-Civil War period, Army engineers worked on reconstruction of the Capitol; completed the Washington Monument; helped design and supervise construction of the State, War and Navy Buildings (today's Executive Office Building next to the White House), and the Library of Congress; and oversaw dredge and fill operations, which created acres of public parkland.

After 1878, an Army engineer officer served on the District's three-man governing commission. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, the Pentagon and National Airport began as pre-World War II Corps projects.

Since the Civil War, engineer officers and troops have played key roles in six wars. During World War I, in combat and in such activities behind the lines as constructing ports, storage depots, hospitals, and barracks, the Corps performed a greater diversity of military services than ever before. Its support of the Normandy landing and breakthrough of enemy lines, its bridge-building efforts, and support of amphibious landings during World War II stand out. Throughout the Pacific Theater, the Corps built pipelines, dredged harbors, and built and repaired ports. Bases in Greenland and Iceland protected Atlantic shipping. The Corps also built the 1,671-mile Alcan Highway in Alaska and the Ledo Road from India to Burma.

At home, the Corps of Engineers took over responsibility for all Army construction in December 1941. This effort included military and industrial projects, a total mobilization that involved more than 27,000 projects at a cost of $15.3 billion. The Corps created a special district to oversee the Manhattan Project, a massive effort to construct production, and assembly facilities for atomic residential communities for workers.

After World War II, in less traditional roles, the Corps became the design and construction agent for NASA, supported the ICBM construction program, and worked on military civil projects overseas.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:37:31 ZULU