National panel led by LSU Chancellor releases report on Corps of Engineers

BATON ROUGE -- In a report released today, a national panel is calling for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restructure its project selection and decision-making procedures.

The National Academy of Public Administration, or NAPA, was commissioned by Congress to conduct a thorough eight-month study of the Corps with emphasis on how the Corps prioritizes projects for construction. The panel, led by LSU Chancellor and Academy Fellow Sean OKeefe, released its findings today. The report is available at www.napawash.org.

"The current process does not serve the nation as well as it can," said OKeefe. "It does not give enough attention to system performance and weighing risks if systems fail."

The current policies employed by the Corps rely on a priority system that weighs the relative economic value of a project against its actual cost. In order for a project to be launched, its "benefit-cost" ratio has to reach a certain level. The panel suggests that this narrow focus to the process is inadequate and must be broadened to incorporate public safety, environmental consequences and other factors in addition to economic value.

"Human safety should be one of the most important factors in the prioritization process," OKeefe said. "Economic benefit alone doesnt capture the value of projects for which the Corps of Engineers is responsible. The Katrina and Rita experiences are painful reminders that when systems fail, the consequences are much more than dollars and cents."

OKeefe and the panel also call for the use of dedicated budget and planning procedures. The outcome should be to finance projects recognized as national priorities, such as the rebuilding of the New Orleans levee systems, to be undertaken without the danger of losing financial support before completion.

"The Corps also needs to evaluate the potential impacts that projects may have on the surrounding enviro

Contact: Ashley Berthelot
Louisiana State University

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