Promoting efficient transport of interstate and foreign commerce, and providing protection from flood and storm hazards, continue to define federal interests in water resources management and key missions for the Corps. The Corps water resources program is, however, experiencing budgetary decline. For many years in the early twentieth century, Corps water programs represented approximately 3 percent of total annual federal spending (Figure 4-1). Today, however, these programs represent less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the budget—a roughly twenty-fivefold decrease. Within that budget, the Corps spends less than 20 percent for new construction, and there is a “backlog” of authorized, but unfunded, project spending of around $50 billion. Equally important is that a significant share of construction dollars is allocated to structural rehabilitation of older projects, while another share is devoted to a relatively new and broadly defined ecological restoration mission.
One explanation for the current situation is that the original mission of harnessing the flows of major interstate rivers has been mainly accomplished. Indeed, the nation’s physical landscape has been forever altered by thousands of projects, constructed by the Corps (and several