U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20314–1000
REPLY TO ATTENTION OF:
0 8 APR 1999
MEMORANDUM FOR COMMANDERS, MAJOR SUBORDINATE COMMANDS AND DISTRICT COMMANDS
SUBJECT: Program Consistency and Reporting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program is a vital part of the overall Civil Works Mission. It is also a very visible aspect of the Corps interaction with the public on a day-to-day basis. Consistency of administration of the Corps Regulatory Program is essential. There are differences geographically in the extent and functions and values of the waters of the United States we regulate, and there are different public views on the importance of regulating these waters. However, we must not allow these regional differences to dictate the administrative process that we subject the regulated and general public to as we carry out this important and visible mission.
The result of your evaluations of permit applications will certainly reflect regional differences, but the process each district uses should be as consistent as possible nationwide. In addition to the need to be fair and consistent to applicants nationwide, with the limited resources available for program implementation, we must ensure that districts are using essentially the same procedures in fairness to the regulatory personnel in every district. We cannot afford to have some districts doing substantially more evaluation than other districts on similar types of projects. We recognize that the regulations, policy, and guidance provide substantial latitude in the procedures used. On the one hand, this promotes fair and reasonable decision making on very diverse permit applications. On the other hand, it creates the potential for dramatically different program administration nationwide. Some of the flexibility in the program guidance involves administrative procedures that can result in substantial expenditure of program
Because of the need to administer the Corps Regulatory Program as consistently as possible, I am providing the enclosed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for implementation 30 days from the date of this memorandum. The 30-day period will provide time for each Major Subordinate Command (MSC) and district to review and understand the SOP. Should you have any questions or comments on the SOP please contact my Regulatory Branch, CECW-OR. Each district will be expected to execute its Regulatory Program consistent with this SOP. In addition, MSC oversight visits will assess how well each district is complying with this SOP, and decisions on annual resource allocation, as well as requests for additional funds will be partially based on how well the district is complying with the SOP. The SOP does not cover every aspect of the Corps Regulatory Program, it focuses on certain elements of the program that involve substantial resource allocation and differences in program implementation nationwide.
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
identify the reasons that districts are amber or red and react to those reasons appropriately. I do expect every district commander to become actively involved in determining the sources of delay in permit decision making. District commanders must also recognize that your district regulatory staff may be administering the program as efficiently as possible, and simply cannot make the final decisions within the reporting requirements because of external delays or excessive workload. I will be working with the division commanders to identify changes in process and changes in resource allocation to meet the various districts' needs. Some districts may have situations driven by external delay that will result in long term amber or red indicators. We will work to understand and document the reasons for these situations and work to remedy the problems, including pursuing/allocating additional resources, if resource limitations are deemed to be a contributing factor. The bottom line is that districts should identify any internal efficiencies that can improve performance and implement them, and identify the external sources of delay and accurately report them to HQUSACE.
This memorandum and the enclosed SOP are critical to fair and reasonable implementation of the Corps Regulatory Program, and to our efforts to ensure that the program is properly resourced in the future. Many recent changes have dramatically increased the workload and complexity of the program, and we need to document accurately what level of service we are able to provide with the current resource allocation to the program.
FOR THE COMMANDER:
COMMANDER, SOUTHWESTERN DIVISION
COMMANDER, MEMPHIS DISTRICT
COMMANDER, NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT
COMMANDER, ROCK ISLAND DISTRICT
COMMANDER, ST. LOUIS DISTRICT
COMMANDER, ST. PAUL DISTRICT
COMMANDER, VICKSBURG DISTRICT
COMMANDER, BALTIMORE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, NEW ENGLAND DISTRICT
COMMANDER, NEW YORK DISTRICT
COMMANDER, NORFOLK DISTRICT
COMMANDER, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT
COMMANDER, KANSAS CITY DISTRICT
COMMANDER, OMAHA DISTRICT
COMMANDER, PORTLAND DISTRICT
COMMANDER, SEATTLE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, WALLA WALLA DISTRICT
COMMANDER, BUFFALO DISTRICT
COMMANDER, CHICAGO DISTRICT
COMMANDER, DETROIT DISTRICT
COMMANDER, HUNTINGTON DISTRICT
COMMANDER, LOUISVILLE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, NASHVILLE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, PITTSBURGH DISTRICT
COMMANDER, ALASKA DISTRICT
COMMANDER, HONOLULU DISTRICT
COMMANDER, CHARLESTON DISTRICT
COMMANDER, JACKSONVILLE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, MOBILE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, SAVANNAH DISTRICT
COMMANDER, WILMINGTON DISTRICT
COMMANDER, ALBUQUERQUE DISTRICT
COMMANDER, LOS ANGELES DISTRICT
COMMANDER, SACRAMENTO DISTRICT
COMMANDER, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT
COMMANDER, FORT WORTH DISTRICT
COMMANDER, GALVESTON DISTRICT
COMMANDER, LITTLE ROCK DISTRICT
COMMANDER, TULSA DISTRICT