"To understand what the Risk Management Center is, you have to understand risk," said Dave Carlson, senior program manager of the Eastern Division Corps of Engineers Risk Management Center (RMC).
In the most basic definition, Carlson explained, risk is the probability of failure and the associated consequences.
The RMC, established in 2009, is a center of expertise under the Corps' Institute for Water Resources (IWR) for managing and assessing risks for dam and levee safety.
The first office stood up in Golden, Colo., was shortly followed by the eastern office here in Pittsburgh, Pa. While technical teams can work on any project, the Mississippi River serves as the boundary between the two divisions from a programs perspective.
The centers' mission includes providing support to dam and levee safety activities throughout the Corps as well as developing policies, methods, tools and systems to enhance those activities.
The RMC is working to reduce risk across the Corps in the most efficient manner possible by assessing the risk associated with a particular dam or levee; determining appropriate risk reduction measures; and advising senior leadership of possible corrective actions.
As an advisor for infrastructure decisions, the RMC strives for consistent and independent assessments of dams and levees. To obtain these requirements, the RMC performs the assessment with their own qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as provides a technical team from a district other than where the assessment is taking place.
Once the assessment is complete, risk reduction measures are considered and a screening takes place to combine the measures into a plan. The plan is then formed into a safety modification study and sent to Corps of Engineers Headquarters. Pending approval by headquarters, the project is prioritized in the national portfolio based on risk and placed in a funding queue.
As of spring 2012, the Corps is actively working on 10 high risk projects.
"This is a brand new organization," said Carlson. "One of our biggest accomplishments so far is that we have changed the culture of the Corps in regards to safety programs by suggesting corrective actions based on risk-informed decisions."
As the RMC continues to grow, a new initiative is being developed which will incorporate district cadres. By training and providing senior technical guidance to Corps employees from districts with past risk assessment experience, the bench of competency as well as technical knowledge and experience will continue to mature, said Carlson. The new cadres will travel to other districts during a two-to-three year commitment to perform risk assessments on various dams and levees.
For more information visit the Institute for Water Resources' web site at http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/index.php. A link to the RMC is under Technical Centers.