become defenders of their recommendations. To guard against this—especially in lengthy planning studies—different review panels may need to be appointed at different stages of the study.
To the Corps’ credit, many steps recommended in the 216 Peer Review Committee report regarding independent review were followed during the UMR-IWW study (the Corps has also recently issued an Engineering Circular on the Peer Review of Decision Documents; USACE, 2005). For example, the Corps prepared documents explaining its agreement with certain recommendations in this committee’s earlier reports and how the Corps intended to use them, or why they chose to disagree with a recommendation. It is worth pointing out that the NRC serves as an adviser to the Corps and to its other study sponsors, and the Corps is thus free to accept or reject any comments from an NRC committee. During the review process, the Corps was cooperative and open in sharing information, participating in discussions with the committee, and hosting committee visits on the Upper Mississippi River. The Corps also helped ensure that the committee spent time with interest groups and nongovernmental organizations that were not fully satisfied with portions of the feasibility study.
The reviews of the NRC committees raised several issues and areas for improvement within the feasibility study. Short of an explicit evaluation of how the Corps was able to incorporate NRC committee advice into its feasibility study (an evaluation beyond this committee’s scope), it is difficult to say precisely how independent review may have strengthened the results of the study.