Obama’s budget cuts ‘not critical’ for Corps

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cuts in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for civil works and research and development total in the billions, but shouldn’t touch the Corps of Engineers’ most critical activities, according to Vicksburg’s federal installations.

Presented Monday, budget plans for 2013 project $3.8 trillion in spending and $2.9 trillion in revenue. Funding for the Corps’ civil works functions is proposed at $4.7 billion, or 5.4 percent less than what was enacted for 2012. It supports “a high level of investment in maintenance and related activities,” such as navigation in the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the Illinois Waterway, according to a budget summary.

Repairs to levees and other flood control structures on the Lower Mississippi River following the historic 2011 flood has the “highest priority for execution” thanks to $802 million in emergency funds released by Congress in December.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“With the emergency supplemental funding we received earlier this year, we have sufficient funds in FY2012 and FY2013 to accomplish the most critical repair projects — those affecting public safety — throughout the entire lower Mississippi River Valley,” said Bob Anderson, spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Division, based in Vicksburg.

Annual budget requests from any president are the first step in a multistep process of funding the federal government. Invariably, funding levels change in Congress. Despite the possible reduction, the budget continues support for the nation’s water and wetlands, as well as emergency response preparedness, Anderson said.

Those efforts include flood control. Repair of levees north of Vicksburg involves rebuilding sections where sand boils cropped up before and during the river’s record-breaking rise in May. It crested at 57.1 feet in Vicksburg, or 14.1 feet above flood stage and nearly a foot above the 1927 mark.

Relief wells and a 1,700-foot berm are in place to control seepage at Buck Chute, west of Eagle Lake. About 1,500 feet of weak earth is being reinforced at Lake Albemarle. A $3.1 million contract for both areas started in September and work is to wrap up by spring’s end.

Defense Department spending is $525.4 billion in the president’s budget, down 1 percent from funds enacted in 2012. It shows $69.4 billion for research, development, test and evaluation, down from $71.3 billion for 2012. It includes $11.9 billion for early-stage science and technology programs.

Assistance from the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center should continue on top-priority ecosystem projects on the Mississippi, Missouri, Columbia and other river systems, and the Gulf Coast, Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, ERDC director Dr. Jeffery Holland said in a statement.

“We believe ERDC will continue to support our armed forces at perhaps a slight decrease or even approximately the same funding levels as in recent years,” Holland said.

Versatility of ERDC’s scientists and engineers in its work force of 2,500 is seen as a constant offset of any funding cuts, Holland said.

“As such, ERDC expects no major manpower issues in the future,” Holland said.

ERDC’s research program is largely military, about 84 percent, including force protection in Afghanistan and counterterrorism measures, Holland said. Eighty percent is cost-reimbursable, in that customers pay for the center’s research products and services, Holland said.

Last year, ERDC conducted approximately $1.6 billion in its research program. In addition to its military programs, 13 percent was for civil works and 3 percent supported military installations.