Corps of Engineers Eye Changes to Its Project Review Process

Thu September 28, 2006 - National Edition

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The chief of the Army Corps of Engineers announced several changes at the agency intended to help prevent engineering disasters like the levee failures in New Orleans.

Among the biggest changes, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock said, will be more independent reviews of projects. Experts have said that if more reviews had been in place, better materials and designs would have been used, which might have saved New Orleans from flooding after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s our institutional response to Hurricane Katrina,” Strock said during a teleconference.

Another change will be to assess the worth of projects based on risks rather than simply costs, Strock said. The Corps traditionally has performed a cost-benefit analysis.

Strock also said the agency should do a better job of inspecting and reviewing public works over the entirety of a project’s life, and that it will do more to communicate with the public about what risks they face.

Ray Seed, a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the levee failures and a Corps critic, said the changes sound “like a positive step.” But he said a meaningful turnaround at the agency will take some deep changes, not just the alteration of a manual.

Strock recently announced his retirement as head of the government’s engineering, design and construction arm. He’s been dogged by criticism of the pace of reconstruction in Iraq and the failures in New Orleans.