By David VergunFebruary 9, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army New Service, Feb. 9, 2012) -- A national strategy is needed to determine U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project priorities and funding, said Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick to the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Bostick was responding to senators' questions about the pace and funding of projects at a nomination hearing for his appointment to chief of engineers/commanding general, USACE.
The general, who has led Army engineers in times of war and peace since 1978, said congressional authorizing and funding is urgently needed to address the country's aging infrastructure, including deepening of harbor and waterways to accommodate larger ships and improved navigation; hydropower improvements; levee protection; as well as ecosystems improvements, such as sustainment of the fisheries industry. He said failure to address these concerns would affect the nation's economic and security interests.
Bostick offered that he and "the Corps could work as a catalyst for such a national vision, which would determine priorities based on a broad consensus of national, state, local government and nongovernmental organizations."
He acknowledged that the Corps takes its project marching orders from Congress, but added that it provides Congress and others advice on project priorities based on its own performance-based studies and metrics.
The general was asked by several Senators about the future status of projects in their home states such as flood control on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, navigation on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and the Great Lakes, environmental improvements in Alaska and Hawaii, and deepening of the ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.
"Are you sure you want this job?" asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) rhetorically, after Bostick was beseeched by several senators about home projects requests. Graham and other senators lamented that Corps projects were often determined by congressional earmarks and agreed with the general that a national vision should be put in place to more rationally determine funding and priorities.
Bostick promised to visit the waterways mentioned by several senators and make a reassessment of those projects. He said the Corps could only do so much and determinations would need to be made by Congress and others as to how and if the current approval process should change.
"History demonstrates that if and when there's a common vision, when people and organizations are committed to working together, we can move projects faster than we currently are, and I'm committed to being on the team that will do this," he said, citing the effective and efficient work done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and in base infrastructure improvements relating to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure work. He said a national vision for the Corps would find those events useful as models for how people can unite to get things done in a timely, cost-effective fashion.
The hearing also delved into topics other than project priorities.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte complimented the Corps' research at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., and fellow New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen said there must be a greater emphasis in public schools on teaching science and engineering, if Americans are to compete in a global market and produce future Army engineers.
Bostick, who has master's degrees in civil engineering and mechanical engineering from Stanford University and served on an engineering advisory board at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, agreed with Shaheen.
"We have concerns about growing engineers," he said, adding that he takes this concern personally. "I speak to youngsters about engineering and the need to focus on science, technology and math. My wife Renee supports me in this endeavor. She's the principal at Randolph Elementary in Arlington, Va.," he added.
Bostick, a USMA graduate, has served as commander of 1st Armored Division's Engineer Brigade during Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as USACE's Gulf Region Division commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. in Baghdad.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 2 oak leaf clusters), Bronze Star Medal and Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
He currently is deputy chief of staff, G-1.