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Highlights

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers' (Corps) civil works mission has grown over the years, while its three-tiered headquarters, division, and district structure has remained the same since it was created in 1893. GAO was asked to examine for the Civil Works Program (1) over time, how the Corps has realigned its organization to take into account its changing mission, budget, staffing, and workload; (2) the challenges that the Corps has faced in realigning its organization; and (3) areas where officials and stakeholders believe changes to organizational alignment, if any, could enhance the Corps' civil works mission. Organizational alignment refers to, among other things, changes in structure, roles and responsibilities, and technical and policy guidance. GAO completed a historical and legislative review of the Corps' mission and past realignment efforts, reviewed budget, staffing, and workload data, and interviewed current and former officials and stakeholders.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To improve the effectiveness of the Corps' Civil Works Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review and revise as necessary the roles and responsibilities of each component level of the organization and ensure that they are clearly articulated in agency guidance.
Closed - Implemented
In October 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviewed its existing guidance, corporate governance documents, and other publications, and found them to be sufficiently clear as they pertain to the roles and responsibilities of each component level of the Corps' organization. Furthermore, in 2011, the Corps completed an assessment of its Communities of Practice. This assessment included Commanders at all levels, and revised the roles and responsiblities of the Communities of Practice so that members would participate in independent technical reviews of decision document components at the field level.
Department of Defense 2. To improve the effectiveness of the Corps' Civil Works Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-evaluate the Centers of Expertise and develop a process to help ensure that they are consistently used across the agency.
Closed - Implemented
In late FY2010, the Corps initiated an ongoing review of its Planning Centers of Expertise, focusing on the Planning Centers of Expertises' ability to support its mission requirements. Findings from this review showed that the Planning Centers of Expertise were resource constrained and therefore unable to effectively meet all 8 mission responsibilities. In response to these findings, the Corps has begun to conduct a more thorough review of each of its six Planning Centers of Expertise. In addition, the Corps now requires each of its Division Commanders to report on the sustainability and functioning of the Planning Centers of Expertise on an annual basis in order to ensure they are used consistently.
Department of Defense 3. To improve the effectiveness of the Corps' Civil Works Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the extent to which the agency's technical guidance needs to be updated, create a schedule for completing these updates, and if additional funding is needed to accomplish these updates, provide this information to Congress.
Closed - Implemented
In its fiscal year 2012 budget, provided to Congress in February 2011, the Corps requested $1 million to update its technical guidance in response to our recommendation. The Corps created a plan in order to use the funds for these updates.
Department of Defense 4. To improve the effectiveness of the Corps' Civil Works Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with Congress to develop a more stable project funding approach that facilitates project implementation and that provides more efficient and effective use of funds.
Closed - Not Implemented
In its November 2010 letter in response to our report, the Corps stated it would work with the Office of Management and Budget during its budget process to ensure that project funding is as efficient as possible. We continue to believe that the Corps must work with Congress to develop a more stable project funding approach that facilitates project implementation and provides more efficient and effective use of funds.

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