Sandy Supplemental Gets Army Corps Funding Wrong, Too

This morning, we gave you the top ten reasons to oppose the Senate’s Sandy spending.  Sources in Congress who are intimately familiar with the Sandy supplemental explain there is a massive misuse of funds in the supplemental for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Here’s what we know.

The Sandy supplemental contains funds earmarked for areas outside the Sandy-affected region. That’s right, the Corps would be spending money on projects unrelated to Hurricane Sandy.  Roughly half a billion dollars would be used to address damages from “previous natural disasters.”  Where? Good question.  We don’t know.  $1 billion have been earmarked for food, hurricane and natural disaster “preparations.” Again, those areas are unspecified.  $821 million have been allocated for dredging projects nationwide.  As if those funds weren’t unrelated enough to actually helping Hurricane Sandy victims, $20 million have been requested for interagency planning on coastal ecosystems.  Whatever that means. 

And since the Corps prides itself on “environmental sustainability as a guiding principle,” they’re getting $50 million for “investigations” — a first step toward new projects — at full federal expense.   The Corps is already over-extended, with a backlog of construction and operations and maintenance at a cost of approximately $70 billion.

The Sandy supplemental also automatically authorizes any project under study by the Corps in the North Atlantic Division that could “reduce flooding and storm damage risks.”  Normally projects of this type go through a vetting process, including Chief’s reports, cost-benefit analysis, and scrutiny by the Appropriations Committee.  Moreover, cost share for these projects is 90 percent federal to 10 percent local.  Normally, the cost share is 65 percent federal to 35 percent local.

Normally, there are statutory limitations on the growth of spending for these projects.  But not here.  That’s being waived, so spending can grow unchecked.

Perhaps all this spending would be a little easier to swallow if there was any indication that the money would be spent well. But it won’t.  The Corps does not have the infrastructure available to spend all of this money responsibly.  A 2010 GAO report noted that the Corp’s carryover funds have increased “due to the large amount of supplemental funding the Corps has received in recent years.”  Still, the Sandy supplemental would allocate another $5.5 billion to the Corps.  This is on top of their annual appropriation, which is about the same amount, as well as a supplemental they have received in eight of the last ten fiscal years.

Just like so many other parts of the Sandy supplemental, this is a disservice to taxpayers and a complete waste of money we don’t have.

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