The development of the Corps budget is different from most other Federal agencies. As proposed by the President, it is earmarked- always has been since I started working on Corps projects for local governments in the 1990s. The Appropriations Committee adds money to the President’s request. That money goes into “pots” like “Investigations”, “Construction”, and “Operations & Maintenance”. And there are mini-pots for “shore protection” (aka “shore protection or coastal storm damage reduction).
For example, there is an Investigations - Additional Funding/Shore Protection mini-pot of $2.75 million for feasibility studies and PED (preconstruction, engineering and design), and a mini-pot for Construction – Additional Funding/Shore Protection for sand nourishment and ecosystem restoration.
Once Congress decides how much money to give, Corps Headquarters allocates that money.
How do they decide? It’s based on requests from their Districts and Divisions that are then analyzed by teams of folks at Corps Headquarters. Don’t expect a rubric you can understand; it doesn’t work that way. Let’s just say that, in general, it is based on need as determined by Corps Headquarters and subsequently approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
But can Congress influence this at all? You bet it can. First, the appropriators put directive language in the report as to how they want the Corps to allocate funds. Now, the folks at HQ have difficult project-specific decisions to make. An expression of congressional interest can go a long way. If your boss wants to make his or her view known, a call to the right person at Headquarters can be helpful. You can write a letter, as well.
All Corps projects go through an extensive process of study and review. But that process begins with congressional authorization, followed by 3 years of study, followed by reviews, and completed by congressional authorization in a Water Resources Development Act (the last one was in 2016, and one is planned every two years). But wait, that’s not all!
The project (whose study has been authorized by name and, if it gets the thumbs-up, whose construction is authorized by name) has to receive named appropriations for each step along the way. If it doesn’t make it into the list of presidential earmarks, then the only way it can get funding is through the Additional Funding lines approved by Congress that will be included in the Corps’ Work Plan. So, your bosses (and you) actually have a lot of power when it comes to determining where money for the Corps goes.
From time to time, I will post more information for congressional staffers on the Corps project and budget process on the WaterLog website. No ads, just the facts plus my own uncensored opinions. There’s also a bunch of information about legislation – including pending bills in your state – and environmental issues and coastal flooding.
Please let me know if you have any questions.