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Why Congress should move beyond “authorized but not funded”

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

There is significant concern among private economists and government officials that that the U.S. economy will need more help than the recent $2 trillion economic rescue package. If Congress drafts more stimulus legislation, an important place to focus would be on simplifying the current complex water resources infrastructure approval process. This issue will be especially important given that this year’s flood season is predicted to be unusually high.

The current process to obtain funding for a water resources infrastructure project involves multiple Acts of Congress. Congress must approve a feasibility study and then approve construction. Congress must also approve at least 2 Acts for funding of both phases.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a backlog of about $60 billion of critical water resource projects that are authorized by Congress but not funded. All of these projects have gone through the Army Corps rigorous, detailed and substantial feasibity study process and all have a positive benefit/cost ratio. Many of these will provide $2 or more worth of risk reductions for every $1 spent. Congress should fund all authorized but unfunded projects that have a benefit/cost ratio of at least 2.5.

There is a precedent for this as Congress used this method and funded the Army Corps authorized but not funded coastal backlog and built critical coastal infrastrure after Super Storm Sandy. Let’s do it again.

Maj. Gen. (ret) Michael Walsh

Senior Advisor

A member of the Dawson team since 2019, Michael Walsh served as Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations and commander of three divisions in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.


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