U.S. Rep. Garret Graves deserves recognition for taking aim at a mighty federal bureaucracy.
After years of watching the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, any south Louisiana resident might give up hope of ever seeing the agency functioning efficiently and with purpose for the good of the people and the environment.
But Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican who represents parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, has studied the corps, put forth a plan for improving its ability to perform its duties and is even meeting with some success.
At its nucleus, Graves’ effort would shift many of the corps’ non-military duties away from it and into the Interior or Transportation departments – places that make a lot more sense for responsibilities such as overseeing flood protection and maintaining navigable waterways.
“We need our Department of Defense focusing on national security threats like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorists – not on wetlands permits,” Graves said in a news release. “The current organizational structure of the Corps of Engineers and our nation’s critical water resources mission – hurricane protection, coastal restoration, flood control, ports and waterways – needs to be compatible with the agency’s mission and a priority of the cabinet secretary. The current structure is neither and the decades of delays and skyrocketing project costs have resulted.”
That is true. And, Graves has gotten some buy-in from the Trump administration, which included his ideas in its plan to restructure parts of the federal government.
Any change to the corps that makes it more responsive to the people and agencies that rely on its work is welcome, particularly here where we have seen such delay and waste in trying to improve our coastal defenses.
The Army should, as Graves points out, be focused on national defense, not issuing permits for levees or repeatedly studying wetlands issues.
Removing those duties from the Department of Defense will allow the Army to commit its valuable resources to jobs more properly within its field and allow other departments to give the issues the corps has been overseeing the attention they deserve.
This move makes good, common sense. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a target of frequent critique in south Louisiana. Perhaps a re-organization is just what the agency needs to embrace a new commitment to its critical mission.
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