NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How The Army Corps of Engineers Assumes Priority Over Terrorism War

March 11, 2002

To many policy analysts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- the federal agency that develops water projects -- has for decades been synonymous with pork barrel programs and politics. So when President Bush established in his budget that the war on terrorism took priority over domestic Corps projects and asked Congress to cut the Corps' budget by 10 percent, certain Capitol Hill politicians went ballistic.

Moreover, Michael Parker, the head of the Corps, trashed the president's budget in testimony before Congress and proposed his own 40 percent increase in appropriations for the Corps -- an act of disloyalty to his boss, which the President fired him for.

But the President's budget for the Corps is more than it seems at first glance.

  • It actually proposes more money to complete projects already underway in order to clean up the Corps' backlog -- which is already $21 billion and 12 years long.
  • In 2001, members of Congress earmarked 405 projects -- or 8 percent of the total budget.
  • In 2002, their earmarking grew to 604 projects -- or 10 percent of the total.
  • As the President's budget notes, more than three-fourths of these 2002 earmarked projects were "inconsistent with long-established policies for the Corps."

That means that the projects have little economic or environmental justification -- and are pure pork.

But the important point, scholars of government agree, is that Parker's disloyalty and his sacking by the President go to the very heart of governance. Whenever bureaucratic minions are allowed to override a president, his ability to set budget discipline is seriously undermined.

Source: Editorial, "Martyr for Pork," Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2002.


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