MONTEBELLO, Calif.--U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. John Peabody spoke to members of the Los Angeles, Orange County and Inland Empire posts of the Society of American Military Engineers during their 28th annual joint breakfast meeting at the Quiet Cannon Country Club Jan. 17. According to its website, SAME is a professional military engineering association, with more than 27,000 members, that unites architecture, engineering, construction, facility management and environmental entities and individuals in the public and private sectors.
SAME's executive director, Bob Wolff, introduced Peabody as the keynote speaker to an audience of more than 100. He said Peabody, a fellow West Point graduate, brings a unique perspective to his position at Corps headquarters, having commanded three USACE divisions; Pacific Ocean Division, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division and Mississippi River Division, where he also served as president of the Mississippi River Commission.
In his remarks, Peabody said the Corps faces some challenging issues, particularly operating in a fiscally-constrained environment.
"At the end of the day, to me, it all boils down to one very simple reality; the Corps of Engineers has more missions and has built out more infrastructure than the nation today is willing to pay to properly operate and maintain," he said. "This reality, and the understanding of that reality, is what drives everything I'm trying to do within the Corps to address this issue."
Peabody spoke of several initiatives the Corps has been working on that he calls the four pillars of Civil Works transformation; project planning modernization, watershed-based budget development, improved methods of delivery and smart infrastructure strategy. Implementing them, he said, is vital, since Corps projects and the water resources it manages have a plant replacement value of more than $251 billion.
"Asset management is one [area] where we really understand the most critical pieces and parts and we invest in those," he said. "We're going to have to start making hard choices about what we're going to invest in."
Alternative resourcing and public-private partnerships are among the potential solutions to the financial challenges, he said, as is watershed-informed budgeting.
"It's important, because if you know what's going on in the watershed, then you can... figure out where to put the federal investment so it has the greatest impact and the best synergy with what other entities outside, or even inside, the federal government are doing," Peabody said. "As you may imagine, this is like six-dimensional chess; it's really complex."
Complex or not, the objective of this transformation is to shape a sustainable portfolio of water resources infrastructure for the Nation’s future.