Army Corps takes steps to fix shortcomings exposed by Katrina

The Army's Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, on Thursday announced that the Corps would take a dozen specific actions to transform the way it sets priorities and does business.

The actions constitute the agency's "institutional response" to failures brought to light following Hurricane Katrina, he said. The plan stems from the Corps-commissioned Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force and other reviews of the agency's performance both before and after the hurricane made landfall.

Among the most significant changes will be a more rigorous focus on risk analysis in both project design and construction, and a more comprehensive effort to communicate that risk to the public and other stakeholders.

"Risk has always been an element of our planning, but it clearly needs increased emphasis in how we do our work," Strock said. "Today the major driving points for recommending projects are economic justification, engineering feasibility and environmental acceptability."

Additionally, the Corps will make far greater use of independent reviews throughout the life of projects, from design through construction and continued maintenance. Until now, independent reviews typically took place during the design phase.

"What this does is it lets everyone in the Corps of Engineers know that independent review is necessary and it's got to be an ongoing thing, not just a one-time review," Strock said.

The 12-point plan reflects the fact that not all the problems exposed by Katrina were engineering mistakes. The incompleteness of the levee system, inconsistencies in levels of protection and lack of redundancy all contributed.

"While the Corps is not responsible for levees we did not build, or for lack of funding for recommendations we made that were not funded, we do have accountability for our own design shortcomings, and we should have done more to inspect and reassess the condition of the levees and to communicate with the people of New Orleans," Strock said.

"Not a day goes by that I do not reflect on the tragic loss of life and property as a result of this devastating storm," he said.

The 12 actions are:

  • Employ integrated, comprehensive and systems-based approaches to Corps projects.
  • Apply risk-based concepts in planning, design, construction, operations and major maintenance.
  • Continuously reassess and update policy for program development, planning guidance, design and construction standards.
  • Use dynamic independent review.
  • Use adaptive planning and engineering systems.
  • Focus on sustainability.
  • Review and inspect completed works.
  • Assess and modify organizational behavior.
  • Effectively communicate risk.
  • Establish public involvement in risk-reduction strategies.
  • Manage and enhance technical expertise and professionalism.
  • Invest in research.
When asked what difference these steps might have made to the residents of New Orleans had they been in place prior to Hurricane Katrina, Strock said, "I would hope that with this focus on risk communication we would have made very sure that people understood the risks involved. It's my impression that many of those who did not evacuate… chose not to because they didn't understand the risk that they faced.

"Now I think people have a very good sense of what the risk is down there. I believe that if a call for evacuation goes out tomorrow, it would be heeded by the vast majority of people," he said.

Since last fall, the Corps has restored the levee system in New Orleans to pre-Katrina levels or better, Strock said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.