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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Army Corps Supplemental Appropriations: Recent History, Trends, and Policy Issues

Charles V. Stern
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Under its civil works program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans, builds, operates, and maintains a wide range of water resources facilities. The Corps also plays a prominent role in responding to domestic natural disasters, in particular riverine and coastal flooding events. The Corps can assist in flood fighting at the discretion of its Chief of Engineers in order to protect life and property, principally when state resources are overwhelmed. The Corps is also authorized to protect and repair its own facilities in the event of flooding, and to operate a program, the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program (RIP), that funds the repair of participating nonfederal flood control works (e.g., levees, dams, dunes) damaged by flooding events. The Corps also undertakes a variety of other activities at the request of FEMA under the National Response Framework, which are outside the scope of this report.

In recent years several natural disasters have required Corps response and repair activities with costs running into the billions. Congress provided most of these funds through supplemental appropriations. Over the 25-year period from 1987-2012, Congress appropriated $26.9 billion in supplemental funding to the Corps. Of this funding, $25.5 billion came through supplemental appropriations acts passed between 2003 and 2012. This funding was approximately half of the amount provided to the Corps for regular appropriations over this same period ($50 billion).

Of the $26.9 billion, $22.2 billion (83%) was for responding to flooding and other natural disasters, with the majority of this funding related to Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 storm season ($16 billion). In addition to the disaster funding, Congress provided the Corps with nondisaster related supplemental funds, including $4.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) and $39 million for facility security and other expenditures.

Corps natural disaster supplemental appropriations have typically been for activities funded by two Corps accounts: Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE; i.e., flood fighting, repairs to damaged nonfederal flood control projects) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M; i.e., repairs to Corps projects). Nonfederal cost-sharing for FCCE and O&M typically has not been required with some exceptions. Congress provided supplemental appropriations related to Hurricane Katrina beyond the FCCE and O&M accounts in the form of $5 billion for improvements through the Construction Account, primarily for additional flood protection in Louisiana. Most of this $5 billion was subject to typical Corps cost-sharing requirements of either 65/35 federal/nonfederal, or else cost sharing consistent with the original project. Similar supplemental construction funding for flood protection improvements was not provided after other storms over this period. That is, Hurricane Katrina supplemental construction funding represented the exception rather than the norm.

When faced with natural disaster costs and proposed supplemental expenditures, Congress may consider whether to provide these funds to the Corps and, if so, how much funding to include and for which Corps accounts and activities. In providing funding, Congress also may consider associated issues such as whether to maintain standard nonfederal cost-sharing requirements, and whether to include reporting and transparency requirements for this funding. While many advocate for supplemental funds in response to disasters, others note that the Corps has a backlog of more than $10 billion of flood infrastructure construction projects, and that the annual appropriations process is the appropriate forum for identifying investment priorities.

Date of Report: January 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R42841
Price: $29.95

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