News: Federal agencies working together just makes sense
Story by Jay Townsend
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - If you track the U.S. fiscal situation then you’re aware that every arm of the federal government is looking at different ways to cut spending and stay viable. One option federal agencies have to cut spending or trade services is the Corps of Engineers Interagency and International Services program. It’s not a new way to do business but it’s an effective way for government agencies to rely on each other’s specialty skill sets during fiscally challenging times.
IIS is the Army Corps of Engineers program that provides technical assistance to non-Department of Defense federal agencies, state and local governments, tribal nations, private U.S. firms, international organizations, and foreign governments.
Instead of creating more bureaucracy, it’s easier and more cost effective for government agencies to us a Corps’ engineer or architect than it is to hire, train and employ a new one. Other agencies can tap into USACE’s engineering expertise through IIS.
All IIS work is funded on a reimbursable basis.
“Corps services are 100 percent funded by the customer,” said Darrin Curtis Little Rock District program manager. “The Corps charges IIS customers for the actual expenses incurred. These may include technical, management, contracting or other cost associated with a particular project or program. Although we are at cost, we provide the customer with an initial estimate of cost that USACE believes it will incur. This leads to a working budget that everyone tries to stay within.”
The Corps provides engineering and construction services, environmental restoration and management services, research and development assistance, management of water and land related natural resources, relief and recovery work, and other management and technical services through the IIS program.
The Little Rock District is providing planning, design, and construction management for renovation and new construction of Veteran Affairs medical facilities in the Veterans Integrated System Network 17 located in central and south central Texas. The total VA program executed during the past eight years consists of 60 projects at seven medical facilities with a combined value of about $127 million. This includes four ongoing projects at the Dallas Medical Center with a total Architectural Engineering Services value of about $2 million.
The district anticipates accomplishing more design services to support the VA’s VISN 17 program and is working with VA VISN 16 to provide the same services for projects located in parts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and east Texas.
Aside from IIS the Little Rock District is also executing 23 projects totaling $57 million funded through a memorandum of agreement between the Corps, Southwestern Power Administration and the Southwest Preference Customer Trust. This cost sharing agreement allows for funding of capital improvements to the seven hydroelectric generating plants in the Little Rock District.
“The cost sharing agreement we have in place for hydropower improvements is 100 percent non-Corps or federal funded,” said Lee Beverly, Little Rock District mechanical engineer. “The Corps does all the work but the funding comes from SWPA and the SPCT.”
The federal power customers have committed to a multi-year program to rehabilitate the Corps-owned facilities in the Southwestern Power Administration system and to preserve the resource for future generations.
This type of funding arrangement effectively supplements the limited federal spending and allows the customer more input into the capital investment priorities. It also has been an effective tool in completing backlog maintenance at the district’s hydropower facilities. This maintenance is extremely critical as each of these plants approach the later stages of their economic life.
IIS and cost sharing agreements are an effective way for federal agencies to work together and save taxpayer dollars. Sharing and spreading government manpower, expertise and resources is a glimpse of the future for the federal government. As agencies continue to look for places to cut overhead and spending they’re discovering new and old ways to do business with each other.