In citing $22 trillion in wasteful government spending, Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford was critical also of the backlog of government funding of projects. He called it the “Battle Hymn of he Backlog.”
The Senator mentioned it in his fourth Federal Fumbles report released this month. Among the numerous cases that he considered to be wasteful spending, were several projects involving energy.
He targeted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and criticized it for its “substantial backlog of authorized projects and necessary repairs.” In Oklahoma, the USACE, as the Senator referred to it, is responsible for waters and ports including the Port of Catoosa and Oakley’s Port 33 saying they play a major role in global commerce right outside Tulsa.
“The USACE believes it has a $96 billion backlog of construction projects that have already been authorized but not funded. It also estimates that its levee portfolio needs $21 billion to allow goods to get to market and protect people’s homes and businesses from flooding,” said the Federal Fumbles report.
Lankford says there is little transparency over how the USACE comes up with the final work plan for any given year. As a result, some local projects are overlooked at the national level.
“Additional disclosure is needed to ensure that local communities are heard through this process,” he stated in the report.
The Senator also suggested the many lakes controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers in Oklahoma should be developed more for recreation. He said it raises the question whether the Corps’ mission is too broad and some responsibilities would be better handled elsewhere.
His solution? The Corps should sell properties that “do not advance its mission.” Lake Optima is one example where the project never came to fruition, yet decades later, the Corps still owns the land.
Another example—surpluses created in two trust funds managed by USACE. One is the Inland Waterways trust fund and the other is the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The Harbor fund has a surplus of $10 billion.
Sen. Lankford said it’s time Congress restructure the USACE and spread its “different missions among other existing agencies” to result in more directed and efficient spending.