Edwards: Cutting the Army Corps of Engineers

“In his classic book about federal water infrastructure, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner said that the Corps has “ruined more wetlands than anyone in history, except perhaps its counterpart in the Soviet Union.”

The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards takes on the Army Corp of Engineers:

The essay will be of interest to people who follow infrastructure issues, people looking for ways to cut spending, and people curious about the long history of bureaucratic mismanagement in the federal government.

The Corps is a federal agency that is involved in river navigation, flood control, seaport dredging, hydropower generation, beach replenishment, and many other activities. While the Corps has built some impressive structures, many of its projects have been economically or environmentally dubious.

The Corps’ activities often subsidize private interests, and they are too often determined by political factors not sound analysis. The agency has a history of distorting its cost-benefit analyses, and it has suffered major engineering failures, such as those contributing to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Fortunately, most of the Corps’ activities do not need to be carried out by the federal government. The essay discusses those activities that could be either privatized or transferred to state and local governments.

At DownsizingGovernment.org, we put aside the “bedtime stories” about how programs are supposed to work, and instead focus on how they actually work in the real world. Federal infrastructure spending makes for good political sound bites, but the reality is much different, as decades of experience with the Army Corps illustrates.

3 thoughts on “Edwards: Cutting the Army Corps of Engineers”

  1. DUDES!!! The locals were responsible for the walls that toppled due to lack of maintenance. They weren’t topped, but, undermined by animal burrows!! The Corps had offered solutions to surges and had not been retained to execute any plan. They do NOT get to decide what they will be doing!!

    Blame the corrupt local politicians for spending the money that should have been put into wall maintenance elsewhere!!!

    The Corps was doing wetlands restoration over the last 20 years in the area. It is what they were ordered and funded to do!!

  2. I’m all for downsizing the federalis, but not on the basis of whether they’ve committed enviornmental crimes against wetlands. And the current administration is way ahead of everyone on using federal agencies to implement damaging mismanagement determined by politics. This is a lot like condemning American soldiers for mistakenly burning a Koran because you can’t go after the guys beheading Americans.

  3. How can you say the Corp of Engineer contributed to the Katrina disaster. More than any other Federal or state agency, the Corp should be held responsible for the flooding in New Orleans. They had very good dykes on the Mississippi river and on Lake Ponchatrain but then had substandard dykes on the canals that connected them. That would have been acceptable if there was a way to shut off the flow from the lake or the river into the connecting canals but there were no gates at either end. That’s a huge vulnerability and design flaw that went uncorrected until after the fact. The Corp should be a lot less worried about puddle in vacant lots and much more concerned about weaknesses in the infrastructure it ought to be maintaining.

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