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The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 34,600 civilian and 650 military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United Statesmarker, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works support to the nation and the Department of Defensemarker throughout the world.

The Corps' mission is to provide military and public works services to the United Statesmarker by providing vital engineering services and capabilities, as a public service, across the full spectrum of operations—from peace to war—in support of national interests. Their most visible missions include

Mission Areas


[[Image:Colonel Debra Lewis, a district commander with the Army Corps of Engineers and Sheik O'rhaman Hama Raheem.jpg|right|thumb|[ Colonel Debra Lewis], the Gulf Region Division CentralDistrict commander with Sheik O'rhaman Hama Raheem, an Iraqi councilman, celebrate the opening of a new women's center in Assriya Village that the Corps helped construct in 2006.]]USACE provides support directly and indirectly to the warfighting effort. The Corps builds and helps maintain much of the infrastructure that the Army and the Air Force use to train, house, and deploy troops. Corps built and maintained navigation systems and ports provide an effective means to deploy vital equipment and other material. Corps R&D facilities help develop new methods and measures for deployment, force protection, terrain analysis, and mapping, and other support.

USACE directly supports the military at the front, making expertise available to commanders to help solve and avoid engineering and other problems. Forward Engineer Support Teams, FEST-A's or FEST-M's, may accompany combat engineers to provide immediate support, or to reach back electronically into the rest of the Corps for the necessary expertise. FEST-A teams are comprised of an 8 person detachment while a FEST-M is comprised of approximately 36 individuals. These teams are designed to provide immediate technical engineering support to the warfighter or in a disaster area. Corps professionals use the knowledge and skills honed on both military and civil projects to support the US and local communities in the areas of real estate, contracting, mapping, construction, logistics, engineering, and management experience. This work currently includes support for rebuilding Iraqmarker, establishing Afghanistanmarker infrastructure, and supporting international and interagency services.

In addition, the work of almost 34,000 civilians on civil works programs throughout USACE provide a training ground for similar capabilities worldwide. USACE civilians volunteer for assignments worldwide. For example, hydropower experts have helped repair, renovate, and run hydropower dams in Iraq in an effort to help get Iraqis to become self-sustaining.

Homeland Security

USACE supports the United States' Department of Homeland Securitymarker and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its security planning, force protection, research and development, disaster preparedness efforts, and quick response to emergencies and disasters. The Corps of Engineers is able to help save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage every year from natural and manmade disasters.

The Corps conducts its emergency response activities under two basic authorities – the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act ( ), and the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act ( ). In a typical year, the Corps of Engineers responds to more than 30 Presidential disaster declarations, plus numerous state and local emergencies. Emergency responses usually involve cooperation with other military elements and Federal agencies in support of State and local efforts.

Infrastructure Support

Army Corps of Engineers Dredge Tauracavor 3 in New York Harbor.
Work comprises engineering and management support to military installations, global real estate support, civil works support (including risk and priorities), operations and maintenance of Federal navigation and flood control projects, and monitoring of dams and levees.

More than 67 percent of the goods consumed by Americans and more than half of the Nation's oil imports are processed through deepwater ports maintained by the Corps of Engineers, which maintains more than of commercially navigable channels across the US.

In both its Civil Works mission and Military Construction program, the Corps is responsible for billions of dollars of the nation's infrastructure. For example, the Corps maintains direct control of 609 dams, maintains and/or operates 257 navigation locks, and operates 75 hydroelectric facilities generating 24% of the nation's hydropower and three percent of its total electricity. USACE inspects over 2,000 Federal and non-Federal levees every two years.

Four billion gallons of water per day are drawn from the Corps' 136 multi-use water supply projects comprising of water storage, making it one of the United States' largest water supply agencies.

The 249th Engineer Battalion , the only active duty unit in USACE, generates and distributes prime electrical power in support of warfighting, disaster relief, stability and support operations as well as provides advice and technical assistance in all aspects of electrical power and distribution systems. The battalion deployed in support of recovery operations after 9/11 and was instrumental in getting Wall Street back up and running within a week. The battalion also deployed in support of post-Katrina operations.

All of this work represents a significant investment in the nation's resources.

Water Resources

Through its Civil Works program, USACE carries out a wide array of projects that provide coastal protection, flood protection, hydropower, navigable waters and ports, recreational opportunities, and water supply. Work includes coastal protection and restoration, including a new emphasis on a more holistic approach to risk management. As part of this work, the Corps is the number one provider of outdoor recreation in the US, so there is a significant emphasis on water safety.

Army involvement in works "of a civil nature," including water resources, goes back almost to the origins of the U.S. Over the years, as the Nation's needs have changed, so have the Army's Civil Works missions.

Major areas of emphasis include the following:
Mississippi River Improvement, 1890.

  • Navigation. Supporting navigation by maintaining and improving channels was the Corps of Engineers' earliest Civil Works mission, dating to Federal laws in 1824 authorizing the Corps to improve safety on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and several ports. Today, the Corps maintains more than of inland waterways and operates 235 locks. These waterways -a system of rivers, lakes and coastal bays improved for commercial and recreational transportation - carry about 1/6 of the Nation's inter-city freight, at a cost per ton-mile about 1/2 that of rail or 1/10 that of trucks. USACE also maintains 300 commercial harbors, through which pass of cargo a year, and more than 600 smaller harbors.

  • Flood Risk Management. The Corps was first called upon to address flood problems along the Mississippi river in the mid- 1800s. They began work on the Mississippi River and Tributaries Flood Control Project in 1928, and the Flood Control Act of 1936 gave the Corps the mission to provide flood protection to the entire country.

  • Recreation. The Corps of Engineers is the Nation's largest provider of outdoor recreation, operating more than 2,500 recreation areas at 463 projects (mostly lakes) and leasing an additional 1,800 sites to State or local park and recreation authorities or private interests. The Corps hosts about 360 million visits a year at its lakes, beaches and other areas, and estimates that 25 million Americans (one in ten) visit a Corps project at least once a year. Supporting visitors to these recreation areas generates 600,000 jobs.
  • Hydroelectric Power. The Corps was first authorized to build hydroelectric plants in the 1920s, and today operates 75 power plants, producing one fourth of the nation's hydro-electric power—or three percent of its total electric energy. This makes USACE the Nation's fifth largest electric supplier.
  • Shore Protection. With a large proportion of the U.S. population living near our sea and lake shores, and an estimated 75% of U.S. vacations being spent at the beach, there has been Federal interest – and a Corps of Engineers mission - in protecting these areas from hurricane and coastal storm damage.
  • Dam Safety. The Corps of Engineers is a leader in developing engineering criteria for safe dams, and conducts an active inspection program of its own dams.
  • Water Supply. The Corps first got involved in water supply in the 1850s, when they built the Washington Aqueduct. Today USACE reservoirs supply water to nearly 10 million people in 115 cities. In the drier parts of the Nation, water from Corps reservoirs is also used for agriculture.


Martis Creek Wetland Project, California.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental mission has two major focus areas: restoration and stewardship. The Corps supports or manages numerous environmental programs, that run the gamut from cleaning up areas on former military installations contaminated by hazardous waste or munitions to helping establish/reestablish wetlands that helps endangered species survive. Some of these programs include Ecosystem Restoration, Formerly Used Defense Sites, Environmental Stewardship, EPA Superfund, Abandoned Mine Lands, Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, Base Realignment and Closure, 2005, and Regulatory.

This mission includes education as well as regulation and cleanup.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a very active environmental program under both its Military and Civil Programs.The Civil Works environmental mission that ensures all Corps projects, facilities and associated lands meet environmental standards. The program has four functions: compliance, restoration, prevention, and conservation. The Corps also regulates all work in wetlands and waters of the United States.

The Military Programs Environmental Program manages design and execution of a full range of cleanup and protection activities:

  • cleans up sites contaminated with hazardous waste, radioactive waste, or ordnance
  • complies with federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations
  • strives to minimize our use of hazardous materials
  • conserves our natural and cultural resources

The following are major areas of environmental emphasis:

  • Wetlands and Waterways Regulation and Permitting
  • Ecosystem Restoration
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Radioactive site cleanup through the Formerly Used Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP)
  • Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)
  • Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS)
  • Support to EPA's Superfund Program

See also Environmental Enforcement below.


Plan of the military academy at West Point, New York.
The history of United States Army Corps of Engineers can be traced back to 16 June 1775, when the Continental Congress organized an army with a chief engineer and two assistants. Colonel Richard Gridley became General George Washington's first chief engineer; however, it was not until 1779 that Congress created a separate Corps of Engineers. One of its first tasks was to build fortifications near Bostonmarker at Bunker Hillmarker. The first Corps was mostly composed of French subjects, who had been hired by General Washington from the service of Louis XVI.

The Corps of Engineers as it is known today came into being on 16 March 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson was authorized to "organize and establish a Corps of Engineers ... that the said Corps ... shall be stationed at West Pointmarker in the State of New Yorkmarker and shall constitute a Military Academy." The United States Military Academymarker was under the direction of the Corps of Engineers until 1866. The Corps's authority over river works in the United States began with its fortification of New Orleansmarker after the War of 1812. A Corps of Topographical Engineers, was separately authorized on 4 July 1838, consisted only of officers, and was used for mapping and the design and construction of federal civil works such as lighthouses and other coastal fortifications and navigational routes. It included such officers as George Meade and John C. Frémont. It was merged with the Corps of Engineers on 31 March 1863, at which point the Corps of Engineers also assumed the Lakes Survey District mission for the Great Lakesmarker. In the mid-1800s, Corps of Engineers' officers ran Lighthouse Districts in tandem with US Naval officers.
The Army Corps of Engineers played an instrumental role in the American Civil War. Many of the men who would serve in the top leadership in this institution were West Pointmarker graduates, who rose to military fame and power during the Civil War. Some of these men were Union Generals George McClellan, Henry Halleck, George Meade, and Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Joseph Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard. The versatility of officers in the Army Corps of Engineers contributed to the success of numerous missions throughout the Civil War. They were responsible for building pontoon and railroad bridges, forts and batteries, the destruction of enemy supply lines, and the construction of roads. The Union forces were not the only ones to employ the use of engineers throughout the war; and on March 6, 1861, once the South had seceded from the Union, among the different acts passed at the time, a provision was stated that called for the creation of a Confederate Corps of Engineers.

The progression of the war demonstrated the South’s disadvantage in engineering expertise; because of the initial 65 cadets who resigned from West Point to accept positions with the Confederate Army, only seven were placed in the Corps of Engineers. To overcome this obstacle, the Confederate Congress passed legislation that gave a company of engineers to every division in the field; and by 1865, they actually had more engineer officers serving in the field of action than the Union Army. The Army Corps of Engineers served as a main function in making the war effort logistically feasible. One of the main projects for the Army Corps of Engineers was constructing railroads and bridges, which Union forces took advantage of because railroads and bridges provided access to resources and industry. One area where the Confederate engineers were able to outperform the North was in the ability to build fortifications that were used both offensively and defensively along with trenches that made them harder to penetrate. This method of building trenches was known as the zigzag pattern.
A bulldozer operated by Sgt.
McCutcheon of the 1304th Engineer Construction Battalion on the Ledo Road, Burma, 1944.
From the beginning, many politicians wanted the Corps to contribute to both military construction and works of a civil nature. Assigned the military construction mission on 1 December 1941 after the Quartermaster Department struggled with the expanding mission, the Corps built facilities at home and abroad to support the U.S. Army and Air Force. During World War II the mission grew to more than 27,000 military and industrial projects in a $15.3 billion mobilization program. Included were aircraft, tank assembly, and ammunition plants, camps for 5.3 million soldiers, depots, ports, and hospitals, as well as the Manhattan Project, and the Pentagonmarker.

In the 20th century, the Corps became the lead federal flood control agency and significantly expanded its civil works activities, becoming among other things, a major provider of hydroelectric energy and the country’s leading provider of recreation; its role in responding to natural disasters also grew dramatically. In the late 1960s, the Corps became a leading environmental preservation and restoration agency.

Five commanding general /Chiefs of Staff (after the 1903 reorganization) of the United States Army held Engineer commissions early in their careers. All transferred to other branches before rising to the top. They were Alexander Macomb, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, Douglas MacArthur, and Maxwell D. Taylor.

Notable dates and projects

Gatun Lock Construction, Panama Canal, March 12, 1912.

  • Breed's Hillmarker
  • An act to improve navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers initiated the Corps' permanent civil works construction mission. The General Survey Act authorized use of Army engineers to survey roads and canals
  • Survey and construction of the National Road until Federal funds were withdrawn (1838)
  • The tall Washington Monument, completed under the direction and command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey, 1884
  • Panama Canalmarker, completed under supervision of Army Engineer officers, 1914
  • Bonneville Dammarker, completed in 1937.
  • Flood Control Act of 1936 made flood control a Federal policy and officially recognized the Corps as the major Federal flood control agency
  • USACE took over all real estate acquisition, construction, and maintenance for Army facilities, 1941
  • Planning and construction of The Pentagonmarker, completed in 1943 just 15 months after groundbreaking
  • The Manhattan Project

Occasional civil disasters including the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 resulted in greater responsibilities for the Corps. New Orleans is another example of this.


Lieutenant General Robert L.
Van Antwerp


The current Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr..

Four Deputy Commanding Generals assist in supervising General Staff activities and in discharging the responsibilities which devolve upon the Commanding General. The current Deputies are:

  • Major General Don T. Riley, Deputy Commanding General.
  • Major General Steven R. Abt, Deputy Commanding General for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs (Individual Mobilization Augmentee)
  • Major General Merdith (Bo) Temple, Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations
  • Major General Jeffrey J. Dorko, Deputy Commanding General for Military and International Operations


The Headquarters group defines policy and guidance and plans direction for the organizations within the Corps. It is made up of an Executive Office and 17 Staff Principals. Located in Washington, DCmarker, the Headquarters creates policy and plans the future direction of all other Corps organizations.

USACE has two directors who head up Military Programs and Civil Works.

  • Joseph J. Tyler, Director of Military Programs
  • Steven L. Stockton, Director of Civil Works

The current USACE Command Sergeant Major is Micheal L. Buxbaum.

Divisions and Districts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is organized geographically into eight permanent divisions, one provisional division, one provisional district, and one research command reporting directly to the HQ. Within each division, there are several districts. Districts are defined by watershed boundaries for civil works projects and by political boundaries for military projects.
Map of U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers Civil Engineer Divisions and Districts.

  • Great Lakes and Ohio River Division (LRD), located in Cincinnati, OH. Stretches from the St Lawrence Seaway, across the Great Lakes, down the Ohio River Valley to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Covers , parts of 17 states. Serves 56 million people. Its seven Districts are located in Buffalo NY, Chicago IL, Detroit MI, Louisville KY, Nashville TN, Pittsburgh PA, and Huntington, WV. The division commander serves on two national and international decision-making bodies: co-chair of the Lake Superior, Niagara, and Ontario/St Lawrence Seaway boards of control; and the Mississippi River Commission.
  • Mississippi Valley Division (MVD), located in Vicksburg, MS. Stretches from Canada to the Guf of Mexico. Covers , and portions of 12 states bordering the Mississippi River. Serves 28 million people. Its six districts are located in St Paul MN, Rock Island IL, St Louis MO, Memphis TN, Vicksburg MS, and New Orleans LA. MVD serves as headquarters for the Mississippi River Commission.
  • North Atlantic Division (NAD), located in Brooklyn, NY. Stretches from Maine to Virginia and the District of Columbia with an overseas mission in 51 countries. Serves 62 million people. Its six districts are located in New York City NY, Philadelphia PA, Baltimore MD, Norfolk VA, Concord MA, and Wiesbaden, Germany. NAD has the largest Superfund program in the Corps with 60% of the funding.
  • Northwestern Division (NWD), located in Portland, OR. Stretches from Canada to California, and from the Pacific Ocean to Missouri. Covers nearly square miles in all or parts of 14 states. Its five districts are located in Omaha NE, Portland OR, Seattle WA, Kansas City MO, Walla Walla WA. NWD has 35% of the total Corps water storage capacity and 75% of the total Corps hydroelectric capacity.
  • Pacific Ocean Division (POD), located at Fort Shafter, HI. Stretches from the Arctic Circle to American Samoa below the equator and across the international dateline out to Micronesia and into Asia. Its four districts are located in Japan, Seoul South Korea, Anchorage AK, and Honolulu HI. Unlike other military work, POD designs and builds for ALL of the military services – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – in Japan, Korea, and Kwajalein Atoll.
  • South Atlantic Division (SAD), located in Atlanta, GA. Stretches from North Carolina to Alabama as well as the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Covers all or parts of 6 states. Its five districts are located in Wilmington NC, Charleston SC, Savannah GA, Jacksonville FL, and Mobile AL. One-third of the stateside Army and one-fifth of the stateside Air Force are located within the division boundaries. The largest single environmental restoration project in the world – the Everglades Restoration – is managed by SAD.
  • South Pacific Division (SPD), located in San Francisco, CA. Stretches from California to Colorado and New Mexico. Covers all or parts of 7 states. Its four districts are located in Albuquerque NM, Los Angeles CA, Sacramento CA, and San Francisco CA. Its region is host to 18 of the 25 fastest growing metropolitan areas in the Nation.
  • Southwestern Division (SWD), located in Dallas, TX. Stretches from Mexico to Kansas. Covers all or part of seven states. Its four districts are located in Little Rock AR, Tulsa OK, Galveston TX, and Fort Worth TX. SWD's recreation areas are the most visited in the Corps with more than of shoreline and 1,172 recreation sites.
  • Gulf Region Division (Provisional) (GRD) (Operation IRAQI FREEDOM), located in Baghdad, Iraq. Its three districts are in North, Central, and South Iraq. There are more than 4,600 projects in the works with more than 4,000 completed through 2007. GRD is staffed primarily by civilian volunteers from throughout USACE.
  • Afghanistan Engineer District (Provisional) (AED) (Operation ENDURING FREEDOM), located in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Corps of Engineers built much of the original Ring Road in the early 1960s and returned in 2002 Supports the full spectrum of regional support, including the Afghan National Security Forces, US and Coalition Forces, Counter Narcotics and Border Management, Strategic Reconstruction support to USAID, and the Commander's Emergency Response Program. AED is also primarily staffed by civilian volunteers from throughout USACE.

Other USACE Organizations

There are several other organizations within the Corps of Engineers:

  • Engineer Research and Development Centermarker (ERDC) – the Corps of Engineers research and development command. ERDC consists of seven laboratories. (see research below)
  • U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center (CEHNC) – provides engineering and technical services, program and project management, construction management, and innovative contracting initiatives, for programs that are national or broad in scope or not normally provided by other Corps of Engineers elements
  • Transatlantic Programs Center (CETAC) – supports Federal programs and policies overseas
  • Finance Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (CEFC) – supports the operating finance and accounting functions throughout the Corps of Engineers
  • Humphreys Engineer Center Support Activity (CEHEC) – provides administrative and operational support for Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and various field offices
  • Marine Design Center (CEMDC) – provides total project management including planning, engineering, and shipbuilding contract management in support of Corps, Army, and national water resource projects in peacetime, and augments the military construction capacity in time of national emergency or mobilization
  • Institute for Water Resources (IWR) – supports the Civil Works Directorate and other Corps of Engineers commands by developing and applying new planning evaluation methods, polices and data in anticipation of changing water resources management conditions.
  • USACE Logistics Activity (ULA)- Provides logistics support to the Corps including supply, maintenance, readiness, materiel, transportation, travel, aviation, facility management, integrated logistics support, management controls, and strategic planning.
  • Information Technology (ACEIT) - provides information technology services to the Corps including automation, communications, management, visual information, printing, records management, and information assurance.
  • Until 2001 local Directorates of Engineering and Housing (DEH), being constituents of the USACE, had been responsible for the housing, infrastructure and related tasks as environmental protection, garbage removal and special fire departments or at least fire alarm coordination centres in the garrisons of the US Army abroad as in Europe (e.g. Germany, as in Berlin, Wiesbaden, Karlsruhe etc.) Meanwhile a similar structure, called DPWs and being constituent of the US Army Installation Command, is responsible for tasks, formerly done by the DEHs.

Directly reporting military units

  • 249th Engineer Battalion – generates and distributes prime electrical power in support of fighting wars, disaster relief, stability and support operations as well as provides advice and technical assistance in all aspects of electrical power and distribution systems. It also maintains Army power generation and distribution war reserves.
  • 911th Engineer Company – (formerly the MDW Engineer Company) provides specialized technical search and rescue support for the Washington, D.C.marker metropolitan area; it is also a vital support member of the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, which is charged with the homeland security of the United States capital region.
  • 412th Engineer Command, US Army Reserve, located in Vicksburg, MS.
  • 416th Engineer Command, US Army Reserve, located in Darien, IL.


Civil works

Some of the Corps of Engineers' civil works projects have been characterized in the press as being pork barrel or boondoggles such as the New Madrid Floodway Project and the New Orleans flood protection. Projects have allegedly been justified based on flawed or manipulated analyses during the planning phase. Some projects are said to have created profound detrimental environmental effects and/or provided questionable economic benefit such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in southeast Louisiana. Faulty design and substandard construction have been cited in the failure of levees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that caused flooding of 80% of the city of New Orleans.

Review of Corps of Engineers' projects has also been criticized for its lack of impartiality. The investigation of levee failure in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina was sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) but funded by the Corps of Engineers and involved its employees.

Corps of Engineers projects can be found in all fifty states, and are specifically authorized and funded directly by Congress. Many times, local citizen, special interest, and political groups lobby Congress for authorization and appropriations for specific projects in their area.

Senator Russ Feingold and Senator John McCain sponsored an amendment requiring peer review of corps projects to the Water Resources Development Act of 2006, proclaiming "efforts to reform and add transparency to the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers receives funding for and undertakes water projects." A similar bill, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, which included the text of the original Corps peer review measure, eventually passed by Congress in 2007, overriding Presidential veto.

Military works

Some of the Corps of Engineers' military works projects of the past have been criticized as being deleterious to the environment. A number of camps and facilities designed by the Corps of Engineers, including the former Camp O'Ryan in New York State, have had an unintended or negative impact on the surrounding communities. Camp O'Ryan, with its rifle range, has possibly contaminated well and storm runoff water with toxic lead. This runoff water eventually runs into the Niagara Rivermarker and Lake Ontariomarker, sources of drinking water to millions of people. This situation is exacerbated by a failure to locate the engineering and architectural plans for the camp, which were produced by the New York District in 1949.

Further criticism of the Corps of Engineers was documented in Leslie Carde's 2008 documentary film America Betrayed

Operational Facts and Figures

  • One HQ, 8 Divisions, 2 Provisional Division, 45 Districts, 6 Centers, one active-duty unit, 2 Engineer Reserve Command
  • At work in more than 90 countries
  • Completed over 4,400 infrastructure projects in Iraq at an estimated cost of $6.5 billion and over 500 projects ($2.6 billion) are ongoing: school projects (324,000 students), crude oil production , potable water projects (3.9 million people (goal 5.2 million)), fire stations, border posts, prison/courthouse improvements, transportation/communication projects, village road/expressways, railroad stations, postal facilities, and aviation projects.
  • Supports 159 Army installations and 91 Air Force installations
  • Owns and operates 609 dams
  • Owns and/or operates 257 navigation lock chambers at 212 sites
  • Owns and operates 24% of US hydropower capacity (3% of the total US electric capacity)
  • Operates and maintains of commercial inland navigation channels
  • Maintains 926 coast, Great Lakes, and inland harbors
  • Dredge annually for construction or maintenance
  • Nation's number one provider of outdoor recreation with more than 368 million visits annually to 4,485 sites at 423 Corps projects (383 major lakes and reservoirs)
  • Total water supply storage capacity of
  • Average annual damages prevented by Corps flood risk management projects (1995-2004) of $21 billion (see "Civil works controversies" below)
  • Approximately 137 environmental protection projects under construction (September 2006 figure)
  • Approximately of wetlands restored, created, enhanced, or preserved annually under the Corps' Regulatory Program
  • Approximately $4 billion in technical services to 70 non-DoD Federal agencies annually
  • More than 90 percent of the USACE construction contracts have been awarded to Iraqi-owned businesses - offering employment opportunities, boosting the economy, providing jobs, and training, promoting stability and security where before there was none. Consequently, the mission is a central part of the U.S. exit strategy.

Public Laws affecting the Corps of Engineers

Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing on Water Resources Needs and the President’s Budget Proposal for the Army Corps of Engineers for Fiscal Year 2008, March 2007.
The Corps of Engineers' work is specifically authorized by Congress, either for an individual project or for a specific class of projects. Note: See Controversies section above about how the Congressional authorization process adds to the controversial nature of some projects. Here are some of the specific laws affecting work done by the Corps.

Regulatory Program

Emergency Response

Project manager with the Kansas City District U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers inspects the Little Blue River at Swope Parkway, 2007.

Flood Control

Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction

Ecosystem Restoration and Protection

General Navigation

Stems from the Commerce clause of the US Constitution and US Supreme Court decisions. the Corps mission is considered to have begun in 1824 when funds were appropriated to clear snags from the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Specific Project Authorizations:

  • Harbor Navigation
    • Sec 101 and 214, WRDA 1986,
    • Sec 13, WRDA 1988,
    • Sec 201, WRDA 1996,
  • Harbor Navigation, Disposal Partnerships
    • Sec 217, WRDA 1996,
  • Inland Waterways Navigation, Locks and Dams
  • Navigation, Small Navigation Projects
  • Navigation, Clearing and Snagging
    • Sec 3, Rivers and Harbors Act of 1945, as amended. This is a continuing authority that does not need further specific authorization (within limits).
  • Navigation, Mitigation of Damages (includes beach nourishment):
    • Sec 111, Rivers and Harbors Act of 1968, as amended. This is a continuing authority that does not need further specific authorization (within limits).
    • Sec 940, WRDA 1986,
  • Navigation, Recreation
    • Sec 103(c)(4), WRDA 1986,

Emergency Streambank and Shore Protection

  • "Section 14" Authority
    • Sec 14, FCA 1946, as amended
    • Sec 27, WRDA 1974,
    • Sec 915(c), WRDA 1986,
    • Sec 219, WRDA 1996, . This is a continuing authority that does not need further specific authorization (within limits).

Hydroelectric Power

  • General
    • various Congressional statutes
    • Sec 5, FCA 1944,
    • Sec 703, WRDA 1986,
  • Facilities for Future Power Installations

Water Supply Storage

  • General
    • Water Supply Act of 1958, as amended
    • Sec 932, WRDA 1986,
  • Surplus Water
    • Sec 6, FCA 1944,
  • Minor Emergency Withdrawals
    • Sec 6, FCA 1944,


  • Reservoir Projects
  • Non-Reservoir Projects
    • Sec 4, FCA 1944,
    • Federal Water Project Recreation Act of 1965, as amended
    • Sec 103(c)(4), WRDA 1986,
    • Sec 313, WRDA 1990,

Dam Safety Assurance

  • Sec 1203, WRDA 1986,
  • Sec 215, WRDA 1996,

Other Related Laws

Environmental enforcement

One of the major responsibilities of the Corps of Engineers is administering the wetlands permitting program under Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. (aka "The Clean Water Act"). This Act authorized the Secretary of the Army to issue permits for the discharge of dredged and fill material.

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (codified in Chapter 33, Section 403 of the United States Code) gave the Corps authority over navigable waters of the United States. As navigable waters are defined as "navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently being used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce", the Corps has broad authority to enforce this, including licensing of bridges over navigable waters, and the maintenance of pierhead and bulkhead lines.

There are three types of permits issued by the Corps of Engineers: Nationwide, Regional General, and Individual. 80% of the permits issued are nationwide permits, which include several general types of activities, as published in the Federal Register. To gain authorization under a nationwide permit, an applicant usually needs only send a letter to the regional Corps office notifying them of his or her intent, type and amount of impact, and a site map. Although the nationwide process is fairly simple, Corps approval must be obtained before commencing with any work. Regional general permits are specific to each Corps division office. Individual permits are generally required for projects greater than in size.


ERDC Research support includes:


The U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers gold castle branch insignia, worn by engineer officers.
The Corps of Engineers branch insignia, the Corps Castle, is believed to have originated on an informal basis. In 1841, cadets at West Pointmarker wore insignia of this type. In 1902, the Castle was formally adopted by the Corps of Engineers as branch insignia. The castle itself is actually the Pershing Barracks at USMA in West Point, NY.A current tradition was established with the "Gold Castles" branch insignia of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, West Point Class of 1903, who served in the Corps of Engineers early in his career and had received the two pins as a graduation gift of his family. In 1945, near the conclusion of World War II, General MacArthur gave his personal pins to his Chief Engineer, General Leif J. Sverdrup. On May 2, 1975, upon the 200th anniversary of the Corps, retired General Sverdrup, who had civil engineering projects including the landmark -long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to his credit, presented the Gold Castles to then-Chief of Engineers Lieutenant General William C. Gribble, Jr., who had also served under General MacArthur in the Pacific. General Gribble then announced a tradition of passing the insignia along to future Chiefs of Engineers, and it has been done so since.

See also


We Clear The Way World War II poster for the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.

External links

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