Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., last week introduced new legislation that aims to clean up the Army Corps of Engineers' image by forcing accountability at the agency. The bill, "The Army Corps of Engineers Reform and Community Relations Improvement Act" ( H.R. 2353), revises the cost-benefit ratio for Army Corps projects and requires additional communications between the Corps and local communities before projects start. The legislation would also put a director of independent review in the Army inspector general's office, rather than in the Corps of Engineers' Civil Works Division, and require that any project whose cost exceeds $25 million undergo an independent peer review. Last November, the Army inspector general concluded that Corps officials had manipulated project data in the Upper Mississippi River project to justify its $1 billion price tag. The Army IG also brought to light broader concerns about the Corps' overall decision-making process on construction projects. "The Corps has a deep and celebrated history, one that I do not feel it is living up to today," Tancredo said. "I have introduced this bill to reel in the Corps before more taxpayer money is wasted on projects that are born more out of bureaucratic inertia rather than scientific need." Tancredo's bill is similar to the "Army Corps Reform Act of 2001"( H.R. 1310), introduced in March by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., in the House and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., in the Senate. That bill calls for the creation of an Army Corps stakeholder advisory committee and would also create an independent panel of experts to review controversial projects and projects costing more than $25 million. Tancredo's bill includes language requiring private-sector competition with the Army Corps for projects like renovating public schools and cleaning up Superfund sites. The competition section is needed "to ensure that the federal government does not crowd out private sector competition," Tancredo said.
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