The President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget: Administration Priorities for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH)
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Hearing on “The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget: Administration Priorities For the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers”
April 24, 2013
(Remarks as Prepared)
I am a strong supporter of the efforts by Congress to control Federal spending. However, I feel like this is a belated-Groundhog Day for most of us on the Subcommittee.
Many of the Army Corps of Engineers activities that we are examining today are true investments in America because they provide jobs and stimulate an economic return. For nearly two centuries, the Civil Works missions of the Corps have contributed to the economic vitality of the Nation and have improved our quality of life.
But, once again like Groundhog Day, this Administration has mis-prioritized the projects and programs of the Army Corps of Engineers. I believe we must be supportive of programs that have a proven record of providing economic benefits.
The FY 2014 Budget Request by the Administration for the Corps of Engineers is $4.7 billion. This request is almost the exact same as what was requested in previous budgets.
In 2011, we had some of the worst flooding on record in this country. In 2012, we were struck by several major natural disasters. And in either 2014 or early 2015, it is likely an expanded Panama Canal will become operational.
Yet, the President has learned little from the recent experience of Superstorm Sandy since his Budget proposes investing only a little over $25 million for constructing shore protection projects nationwide. In addition, he sends to Congress a budget that has an ecosystem restoration construction budget that is 4 times larger than its coastal navigation construction budget.
The FY 2014 Budget was where we expected to find the funds to match the Administration’s rhetoric on initiatives, like the President’s Export Initiative, or the President’s We Can’t Wait Initiative.
Instead, while the President is proposing $834 million out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for operation and maintenance activities in FY 2014, just last year in FY 2013, it is estimated the Administration collected $1.85 billion in Harbor Maintenance Taxes, paid by businesses for the purpose of maintaining America’s ports. This will not keep up with a growing demand on our ports to accommodate more and larger ships, and will leave the Trust Fund with almost $9 billion in IOU’s to the nation’s ports at the end of the next fiscal year.
This Administration is not the first to short-change America’s water transportation system, but I find it irresponsible for any Administration, or for Congress itself, to not fully spend the tax dollars collected for their intended purpose.
I know we need to find savings, but savings could be found by slowing down work on some environmental restoration projects until the economy turns around.
Instead, the President’s Budget prioritizes these activities above navigation. The largest navigation expenditure in the Construction General account is less than $50 million. By comparison, the three largest ecosystem project expenditures in the Construction General account are one project for more than $100 million, one project for almost $90 million, and one project for more than $70 million.
And two of those multi-million dollar ecosystem restoration activities are at the behest of other federal agencies like the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
While we in Congress understand the Corps of Engineers has to comply with the Endangered Species Act and other laws, every year the agency has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on so-called environmental compliance activities at the whim of other federal agencies with no end in sight. I think the Corps of Engineers needs to know when to say “no.”
Budgets are about priorities. A priority of any administration should be to put the United States at a competitive advantage in world markets. But, not one single coastal navigation project in the President’s Budget will complete construction in the next fiscal year.
According to this Budget, the coastal navigation system the nation has today, which is the same coastal navigation system we had when this President took office, will be enough to keep the United States competitive when the Panama Canal expansion is complete.
Many of us in Congress disagree. While the President’s “Export Initiative” and the “We Can’t Wait Initiative” made some promises to the public, unfortunately, many of us in Congress believe the President’s Budget does not deliver on these Initiatives. Like Groundhog Day, once again, the President’s budget over-promises and under-delivers.
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Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, Chief of Engineers | Written Testimony
Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army—Civil Works | Written Testimony