Moreover, the SOP does not provide new policy guidance, it simply focuses on where we believe that districts should be within the “zone of discretion” that exists in the Corps Regulatory Program guidance. Finally, the SOP will be a living document. As my staff and the MSC regulatory team identify needed changes, those changes will be made.
The SOP consists of three distinct parts. Part I provides focus on specific policy and program administration issues where we have noted distinct and unacceptable differences among the districts nationwide. Part II provides a corporate prioritization of the various types of activities that each district engages in as it administers the program We have listed these activities in terms of what is above the line and what is below the line. All districts will be actively involved in all activities that are listed as above the line. Activities that are listed as below the line are those that may or may not be accomplished, and will be accomplished to varying degrees, but only after the above the line activities are fully executed. The MSCs will factor into annual budget allocations the extent to which each district is involved in below the line activities. MSCs should review district activities and consider reprogramming below the line funds to other districts that are not sufficiently funded for above the line activities. Districts should normally expend 25 percent or less of its allocation on below the line activities.
Part III of the SOP includes new definitions of the reporting requirements for the Regulatory Program. It is essential that HQUSACE have accurate information on Regulatory Program performance. Information on performance will be factored into annual resource allocations, and will be used by HQUSACE in our defense of our annual budget requests to Congress. We believe that the method of reporting time for making permit decisions is too flexible, and does not accurately reflect the time an applicant must wait for a final decision. The revised definitions in Part III of the SOP eliminate ALL stopping of the clock on permit evaluation time. We will now simply keep information on when the application was received, when it was considered complete, and when the district made the permit decision. Districts must also focus more on what reasons delayed the decision. In this way we can work to understand and reduce delays in decision making by the Corps. I am not faulting any district for how they have reported performance in the past, the guidance allowed too much flexibility. From now on, however, I want each district to ensure that reporting is absolutely accurate under the revised, and tightened, definitions in Part III of the SOP.
I recognize that by tightening the definitions for reporting many districts will be either amber or red. The reasons for being amber or red include too much workload, too many delays by other Federal or State agencies, and extensive delays by the applicants themselves. We need to better