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 USACE Civil Works Feasibility Study Program Execution and Delivery
Questions and Answers


Q1:  How is HQUSACE communicating this with Congress?
A1:  The HQUSACE is addressing this initiative as part of the FY2013 Budget testimony for Congressional appropriation and authorization committees.

Q2:  Can we discuss this with Congressional Delegation and non-Federal sponsors?
A2:  Yes.  Talking Points have been developed and should be used by all levels of USACE for coordination and communication with stakeholders, sponsors and Congress.

Q3:  When will the new Planning Paradigm be implemented?
A3:  The intent is to fully implement this new process in FY2014; however many of the concepts of the new Paradigm can be applied now to existing feasibility studies. 

Q4:  Will the new Paradigm require changes to existing legislation, policy, and guidance?
A4:  The new process can be implemented in large part without modifications to existing legislation, policies, or guidance.  A task force comprised of those that developed the original principles of the Paradigm and other members representing all Civil Works functional elements will convene in early March 2012 to develop and refine the concepts and methodologies for implementing the new Paradigm.

Q5:  Will the proposed PR&G affect the new Planning paradigm?
A5:  The new paradigm is being implemented to transform the USACE Civil Works Planning program and will be implemented independent of PR&G.  The concepts of the new paradigm are consistent with the proposed PR&G.

Q6:  Is the National Pilot Program for Feasibility Studies continuing and will there be more pilot studies?
A6:  The current five pilot studies will continue to validate concepts of a new planning paradigm and continue to provide lessons learned.   At this time, no additional pilot studies are proposed.

Q7:  Does 3 x 3 x 3 rule go into effect immediately?
A7:  Yes.

Q8:  Is the $3M threshold the total feasibility study cost or the Federal share?
A8:  The $3M threshold is the total feasibility study cost.

Q9:  Where did the 3-year duration and $3M thresholds come from? 
A9:  ER 1105-2-100, states typical studies should be completed in 18-36 months.  In addition, Section 2033(c) of WRDA 2007 directs that the benchmark goal for a study be within 2 years or generally up to 4 years.  The $3M threshold was selected to enforce implementation of new Paradigm principles to scale studies commensurate with complexity.  It is not intended to be a one-size fits all approach for feasibility studies.  We recognize there are complex watershed and other multi-purpose studies that will require additional time and funds to complete.  These complex studies are envisioned to be the exception rather than the rule.  This also enforces vertical team concurrence on scope and assures DCG-CEO approval.

Q10:  My current FCSA cost exceeds the $3M threshold, will we have to amend the FCSA and re-scope to complete in 3 years?
A10:  If your study is not scheduled for completion (submission of final report to HQUSACE) by 31 Dec 2012 then you will have to either request approval to continue as is or re-scope to complete in 3 yrs and $3M.  The amount of funds spent to date and number of years study has been ongoing should be considered in the 3 yrs and $3M guidelines.

Q11:  Does this apply to ongoing Reconnaissance studies?  I am ready to execute an FCSA and the cost is over $3M, will I have to re-scope or request approval from HQUSACE to continue as is?
A11:  Yes.  However, the specifics on requesting waivers have not been developed. So as not to delay progress, District’s should elevate issue to MSC’s for vertical team discussion and development of study specific guidance.

Q12:  Does this include Limited and/or General Reevaluation Reports?
A12:  Yes.  This guidance addresses Feasibility Study execution which includes all cost-shared studies including LRR’s and GRR’s.  However, the number of feasibility studies described in the memorandum reflects the number of Investigations studies.  The Investigations account is our first priority.

Q13:  Is the 3 x 3 x 3 rule trying to push more engineering in to PED or delay other processes in order to meet the 3-year timeline?
A13:  No.  The goal is to focus on the appropriate level of detail needed to make the decision.  Feasibility-level design will still be conducted using the data appropriate for developing the design.  The difference is that the level of detail will be limited to a single alternative or small set alternatives.

Q14:  The memo indicates studies scoped to be longer than 3 years or $3 million will require approval.  Will guidelines be forthcoming as to how to request this approval, or the circumstances under which approval would be granted?
A14:  Yes.  The PCoP is working closely with HQ CoP’s and RIT’s to establish Standard Operating Procedures for implementation of these new requirements.  All waivers will be processed through the RIT’s and be presented to a Senior Review Panel.

Q15:  Who sits on the Senior Leader’s Review Panel?
A15:  The Senior Leaders Review Panel consists of Mr. Theodore A. Brown, Chief Planning and Policy, Mr. James Dalton, Chief Engineering and Construction, Mr. Scott Whiteford, Chief Real Estate , and Mr. Mark Mazzanti, Chief Programs Integration Division.  Board members will get support as needed from staff.

Q16:  Is the target report length of 100-pages for the main feasibility report or an integrated report/environmental document?  Is there an example?
A16:  The target length of 100-pages is for an integrated document.  An example (template) is under development.

Q17:  What part of the analysis should the districts cut in order to reduce the size and detail in their reports?
A17:  Data gathering and analyses should focus on areas critical to differentiating among the alternatives.  A risk based decision making approach is important.  Information that is common to all the alternatives should be acknowledged (i.e., what is the minimal level of detail that is acceptable?).  This could help define what components, at a minimum, must be included in feasibility studies.

Q18:  What additional training will be provided on the new paradigm?
A18:  The Planning CoP is developing a thorough and comprehensive training approach that will address transition and implementation to the new Planning Paradigm by FY2014.   This is intended to be rapid delivery training program that minimizes costs, thereby allowing maximum participation in the training.

 USACE Civil Works Transformation: Planning Modernization
Talking Points

  • The Nation’s aging infrastructure, increased demands, and limited funding compel us to assess our ability to deliver studies and projects that meet the Nation’s water resources needs.  We must focus our limited resources on the highest performing programs and projects within the main water resources missions of the Corps:  commercial navigation, flood and storm damage reduction, and aquatic ecosystem restoration, as well as hydropower.
  • The USACE Civil Works Program is undergoing a transformation initiative to better align our project development processes with national priorities to better address the water resources challenges and needs of the Nation. 

What is Planning Modernization?

  • Planning Modernization is one of the four pillars of the Civil Works Transformation initiative which addresses all aspects of the USACE Civil Works project delivery cycle. Planning modernization is focused on improving delivery of quality planning products in order to make timely decisions regarding our Nation’s water resources needs.
  • The top four Planning modernization performance priorities are:
    • Improve Planning Program Delivery
    • Develop a Sustainable National & Regional Planning Operational and Organization Model
    • Improve Planner Knowledge and Experience
    • Modernize Planning Guidance and Processes
The New Planning Paradigm

  • A new Planning Paradigm was introduced in January 2011 that is focused on risk-based scoping to define pertinent water resources needs and opportunities and the appropriate levels of detail for conducting investigations, so that recommendations can be captured and succinctly documented and completed in a target goal of 18 months.  Guidance has been issued mandating all typical feasibility studies should be completed in 18-36 months.
  • While not every study initiated by the Corps will be able to be completed in 18 -36 months, the proposed process should dramatically shorten the amount of time and cost of conducting planning studies and increase corporate and individual accountability for decisions.  This process will save time and money for both the federal government and the project sponsors.
  • The new paradigm involves all functional elements required to conduct a feasibility study.
  • The new paradigm consists of five fundamental concepts that can be implemented in large part without modifications to guidance or legislation.  These concepts are:
  • Uncertainty and Level of Detail.  Balancing the level of uncertainty and risk with the level of detail of the study;
  • Vertical Team Integration.  Ensure early vertical team engagement of decision makers, and as the study process progresses;
  • Determine Federal Interest.  Identify the Federal interest early in the study, including the level of Federal interest and level of Federal investment looking beyond National Economic Development (NED) and National Ecosystem Restoration (NER);
  • Alternative Comparison and Selection.  This concept recognizes that there is no single “best” plan, and there are a variety of approaches (quantitative and qualitative) to multi-criteria decision making, and
  • Funding and Resourcing.  Ensure that all resources needed for the study – funding, human resources, data and information – are identified and available for the duration of the study.
National Pilot Program for Feasibility Studies

  • The National Pilot Program for Feasibility Studies is being conducted to develop sustainable and replicable processes and methodologies to improve planning practice and we will begin to share lessons learned for application on all feasibility studies. 
  • To date, five pilot studies have been selected: Jordan Creek (Springfield) MO; Sutter County, CA; Lake Worth Inlet (Palm Beach County), FL;  West Side Creek (San Antonio), TX; and Central Everglades, FL.
  • Jordan Creek (Springfield), MO
    • Flood Risk Management and Ecosystem Restoration Study
    • Partner: City of Springfield, MO

  • Sutter County, CA
    • Flood Risk Management, Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Study
    • Partners: State of California Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency (SBFCA)

  • Lake Worth Inlet (Palm Beach County), FL
    • Deep Draft Navigation Study
    • Partner:  Port of Palm Beach
  • West Side Creek (San Antonio), TX
    • Flood Risk Management, Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Study
    • Partner:  San Antonio River Authority (SARA)

  • Central Everglades, FL,
    • Ecosystem Restoration 
    • Partner: South Florida Water Management District
  • Lessons learned from Pilot Program:
    • New Paradigm concepts are good and in large part can be applied to all Planning studies
    • More definitive direction and guidelines on how to conduct the new paradigm are needed
    • Critical thinking is required by all members of PDT
    • All CW functional elements must participate
    • To effect cultural change – New Paradigm must be implemented more broadly
Reset and Reclassification of Feasibility Studies
    • In accordance with current regulations, a thorough review of the 653 individual feasibility studies was performed to remove all studies with no funding, no sponsor interest, or a lack of positive outcome, from the active feasibility portfolio.  Significant progress was made to reduce the Feasibility Study Portfolio and this effort will continue into 2012. (288 inactive; 365 active )
    • The classification of studies (active, inactive) is an annual requirement and an inactive classification does not jeopardize a study from continuing at such time that sponsor, and Federal funding become available and the sponsor and Corps agree to reactivate a study.
    • All Districts will complete reclassification of all identified inactive, terminated or completed feasibility studies and reprogram remaining funds to appropriate active feasibility studies, subject to current reprogramming law.
    • In accordance with the 3x3x3 rule all active Feasibility studies will be “reset” or rescoped  within the guidelines of the New Paradigm to be completed in 3 years in a target goal of 18 months but no more than three years; cost not greater than $3M; and require three levels of vertical coordination
Conduct of Ongoing Feasibility Studies
  • Effective immediately all Feasibility studies (that have not reached the FSM milestone) will follow a 3 x 3 x 3 rule and will be completed in a target goal of 18 months but no more than three years; cost not greater than $3M; and require three levels of vertical coordination.
  • The target length of the main report for feasibility studies will be 100 pages or less.  The environmental document should conform to guidance in ER 200-2-2.  The entire feasibility report and appendices shall not exceed 1- three inch binder. 
  • All studies that have been funded for greater than five years will be reviewed and assessed by USACE vertical tem and sponsor to determine if they should proceed or terminate.  If it is determined a study should continue it will be re-scoped in accordance with new paradigm concepts and within the 3 x 3 x 3 rule.