Bipartisan Bill to Stop Billions in Wasteful Spending on Water
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2002 - /U.S. Newswire/ -- A group of influential
Senators introduced landmark legislation today that, if enacted,
could stop more than $15 billion of water projects and would
increase accountability for the embattled U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), a
national budget organization.
In what is poised to be one of the biggest battles over pork
barrel spending in recent years, Sens. Robert Smith (R-N.H.),
Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), introduced the
Corps of Engineers Modernization and Improvement Act of 2002. The
introduction of this legislation comes on the heels of projections
that the federal government will have a deficit of more than $80
billion next year.
"This legislation will go a long way towards reining in
out-of-control pork barrel spending at the Army Corps of
Engineers," said Jeff Stein, policy analyst at Taxpayers for Common
Sense. "The bill will end the idea that 'pork is king' in
Washington and that any lawmaker who wants a ditch, dam or dike in
their district should get their project despite the cost to
The Smith-Feingold-McCain bill proposes reforming the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers in several important ways. The bill addresses
the $52 billion construction backlog for Corps projects and the
lack of credibility in Corps project planning studies. President
Bush advocated similar reforms in the budget proposal he introduced
in February, which focuses funding on ongoing projects within the
Corps' main mission areas, stemming "mission creep", and
to release a proposal for "independent review of significant
projects" later this year.
The introduction of the Corps reform bill was heralded as an
important bipartisan effort to make government more fiscally
"Wasteful spending cuts across the aisle," added Stein.
reform an agency the size and scope of the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers will require leadership of lawmakers from both sides of
the aisle as well as the leadership of President Bush."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a $4 billion civil works
program with three primary missions: navigation, flood damage
reduction, and environmental protection. In recent years, however,
the agency with support from Congress, has sought to expand its
mission into water supply, wastewater treatment and managing
construction of public schools, oftentimes competing directly with
the private sector for these jobs.
"Rather than throwing more money at a broken system, Sens.
Smith, Feingold and McCain are creating solutions," continued
Stein. "This bill will allow the Corps to build good projects
faster while ending federal involvement in wasteful projects that
benefit narrow special interests."
Last week, other Senators complained at Senate Budget Committee
hearings that their water projects did not receive enough funding
in President Bush's budget, which proposes a 12 percent cut for the
Corps. The Smith-Feingold-McCain Corps reform bill also tackles
Congress' inability to restrain itself from spending on parochial
projects with little benefits for taxpayers nationally.
"The reluctance of Members of Congress to criticize wasteful
spending has led to the $52 billion construction backlog, a
situation where everyone loses because no projects are getting
built," continued Stein.
It is not unusual for the Corps of Engineers to take several
decades to build a project. A TCS analysis of government data on
the current projects under construction reveals that the typical
Corps project that has been approved for construction is only 24
percent complete. There are 43 projects that were authorized for
construction in 1986 that still require an additional $4 billion to
complete. The backlog severely affects the Corps' ability to
properly maintain existing infrastructure.
Highlighted reforms of the Smith-Feingold-McCain Corps of
Engineers Modernization and Improvement Act of 2002:
-- Deauthorizes wasteful water projects -- Speeds up completion
of construction for Corps projects with large public benefits by
deauthorizing low priority and economically wasteful projects.
-- Independent review of wasteful projects -- Makes the Corps
more accountable for its actions by instituting a system of
independent peer review of large and controversial projects that is
concurrent with the Corps' current project planning process.
-- Beneficiaries of projects should pay the majority of the cost
-- Increases non-federal cost-sharing requirements for projects
where the beneficiaries are primarily local and easily
Contact: Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense,
202-546-8500, ext. 110