US Army Corps of Engineers 2021 budget: how will the Corps execute?

Posted in: Energy, Military, Water

white puzzle with red puzzle piece budget 2021A couple of weeks ago, the President’s Fiscal 2021 Budget for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works Program was released. I’ve now had a chance to review that budget.

The FY2021 budget provides $5.966 billion for the Civil Works program. This is up from the $4.827 billion in FY2020 and $4.785 billion in FY2019. Although this budget represents a 22 percent decrease from FY2020 enacted levels, the Congress historically adds supplemental funding to the President’s Civil Works request. Considering that little of the FY2018 or FY2019 disaster supplementary appropriation ($17.4 billion and $3.3 billion, respectively) has been obligated, even just the President’s budget without any Congressional adds would leave the Corps well over $20 billion to spend on Civil Works.

USACE also supports the Department of Defense military construction, family housing, and facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization (FSRM) programs. FY2021 funding changes from FY2020 levels are:

  • A small increase for the Department of Defense, but a 55 percent reduction for military construction and family housing and an increase in FSRM funding.
  • 14 percent increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • 2 percent increase for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In terms of Military Construction and Family Housing, the President’s 2021 budget request provides $8.164 billion as follows:

Department FY2020 Enacted
($ in millions)
FY2021 Presbud
($ in millions) 
Delta FY20-21
($ in millions)
Army 2,513 1,629 -884
Navy 7,129 2,631 -4,498
Air Force 5,831 1,642 -4,189
Defense-Wide 2,761 2,262 -454
TOTAL 18,189 8,164 -10,025


FSRM is included under Operations & Maintenance (O&M)—based on a number of briefings, I expect that FSRM is increased.

USACE also provides planning, design and construction support to Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (part of DHS). These programs are likely to increase in 2021.

Fewer federal dollars for civil works and military programs. Increases in support for others.

Before you panic, remember that the “President proposes, Congress disposes”. In FY2020, Congress added nearly $2.9 billion in additional funding to the President’s civil works budget in appropriations.

The FY2021 civil works budget includes construction funding for 22 projects, including seven flood risk management projects, four aquatic ecosystem restoration projects, and twelve commercial navigation projects. The FY2020 investigations program includes funding for 21 studies totaling $108 million. The FY2021 Operations and Maintenance program is funded at $3.123 billion.

Of special interest to my Mead & Hunt Water Resources team is the $31.4 million in investigations allocated for dam safety modification studies and design. I was also pleased to see that the O&M program includes $27 million in the flood control and coastal emergencies account.

Bottom Line

Despite the decrease in military spending and decrease for Civil Works from FY2020 enacted levels, considering the historic pattern of Congressional adds and the fact that most of the 2018 and 2019 disaster supplemental funding has not yet been obligated, I’m certain that USACE will have its hands full trying to execute their budget. USACE will need lots of help from the AEC industry; however, recent changes in how Districts award task orders on indefinite delivery contracts with additional supplemental information requirements will make this process longer and more difficult.

Bottom line is we understand this process will not be simple. We are prepared for more work, and more challenges getting that work contracted, and we’re committed to helping our clients find the best solutions possible.

Let’s talk about it

As we face these changes, it’s important to collaborate effectively to find solutions. If you’d like to connect at one of these upcoming spring conferences to talk more about the USACE Civil Works Program, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

About the Author

Miro Kurka, P.E., PMP, knows water is an incredible resource. “I like leading teams and managing water infrastructure projects that make our citizens safer, wealthier and happier.” He is the recipient of the 2019 SAME Individual Industry Government Engagement Award. A retired U.S. Army officer, Miro managed the Corps of Engineers’ program in Tulsa, Portland and Afghanistan for 30 years. He enjoys traveling and meeting people.

Read more posts by Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

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