Supplemental Appropriations for Army Corps Flood Response and Recovery

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February 20, 2020
Supplemental Appropriations for Army Corps Flood Response
and Recovery

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE, or Army
generally has tailored the acts to reflect specific
Corps) has a prominent role in responding to natural
characteristics of the disasters and Congress’s preferred
disasters, especially floods, in U.S. states and territories.
means to support response and recovery for the disasters.
Congress has provided USACE with authorities to perform
emergency flood fighting (e.g., sandbagging and temporary
Figure 1. Army Corps Flood-Related Supplemental
levee construction) and to repair certain nonfederal flood
Funds, FY1990-FY2019
control works damaged by floods and other events.
Congress often pays for these activities through
supplemental appropriations. Since 2005, Congress also has
provided USACE with supplemental appropriations for
construction of flood risk reduction projects in states and
territories as part of some post-flood disaster response and
recovery efforts.
Additionally, for incident and disaster responses performed
pursuant to other federal authorities, the agency leading the
federal effort may task USACE with assignments. These
assignments are not funded through USACE budget
accounts and are not discussed herein. The discussion
below focuses on USACE’s emergency flood response and
recovery activities pursuant to USACE authorities and

Source: CRS, using enacted legislation. Amounts shown are nominal.
supplemental funds, as well as related issues for Congress.
Notes: Light blue represents Construction account funding.
Supplemental Appropriations, 1990-2019
Congress provided USACE with $53.9 billion (in nominal
Funds Expand from Response to Recovery
dollars) in supplemental appropriations from FY1990
Prior to FY2005, Congress principally provided
through FY2019. Of the $53.9 billion, Congress provided
supplemental funds for USACE to repair damage to its
$49.3 billion for flood response and recovery. Figure 1
existing facilities (through USACE’s Operations &
shows the USACE flood-related supplemental funds by
Maintenance [O&M] account), and pay for flood fighting
decade: $1.1 billion in the 1990s, $19.2 billion in the 2000s,
and repair damage to certain nonfederal levees and dams
and $29.0 billion in the 2010s. Apart from the flood
(though the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies
funding, Congress provided USACE with supplemental
[FCCE] account). Rather than fund flood fighting through
funds of $4.6 billion for national economic recovery
annual appropriations, Congress has provided USACE with
through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
authority to transfer funds for flood fighting into the FCCE
(P.L. 111-5, FY2009) and $29 million for facility security
account from other USACE accounts. USACE uses FCCE
(P.L. 108-11, FY2003). Each of the flood-related USACE
supplemental funds to reimburse the other accounts and to
supplemental bills has been unique. Although some
pay for FCCE-eligible repairs to nonfederal flood control
legislative text has appeared in multiple acts, Congress
Table 1. Supplemental Appropriations by Army Corps Budget Account, FY2013-FY2019
($ in millions, nominal)
Invest. &
Public Law Expenses Const.
State and Territory Invest. & Const. Limitations
P.L. 116-20
Affected by Hurricanes Florence & Michael, Typhoon
Mangkhut, Super Typhoon Yutu, Tropical Storm Gita
P.L. 115-123
17,398 Affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, & Maria or more
than one flood in CY2014-CY2017 for some funds
P.L. 114-254


P.L. 113-2

Affected by Hurricane Sandy in USACE’s North
Atlantic Division
Source: CRS using referenced bills.

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Notes: Invest. = Investigations; Expenses = General Expenses; Const. = Construction; MR&T = Mississippi River and Tributaries.
From FY1990 through FY2004, Congress provided
from a feasibility study to construction with approval of the
$4 million in supplemental appropriations to USACE’s
Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), rather than
Construction account. After FY2004, Congress started to
requiring project-specific congressional construction
provide supplemental appropriations more regularly for
authorization, if the construction is funded using
USACE to study and construct flood control projects as part
supplemental appropriations. Unlike with most annual
of post-disaster recovery efforts. From FY2005 through
appropriations acts, recent supplemental appropriations acts
FY2019, Congress provided $26.5 billion in supplemental
have not restricted the number of new studies and
appropriations to the USACE Construction account. Table
construction projects (referred to as new starts) initiated
1 shows the four most recent supplemental appropriations
with supplemental funds.
acts funding USACE.
Supporters of Construction account appropriations as part
Although Construction account funds typically can be used
of disaster recovery view the funded projects as improving
to repair damage to ongoing USACE construction projects,
the flood resilience of disaster-affected states and
the majority of the supplemental construction funds have
territories. Some view the waivers and special conditions as
been directed at completing new or ongoing USACE flood
necessary, because they facilitate progress on USACE
risk reduction projects in states and territories affected by
projects without straining disaster-affected local
floods. After the 2005 hurricane season (which included
governments with cost sharing. Other stakeholders support
Hurricane Katrina’s landfall) through FY2009, Congress
more funding for flood risk reduction in the annual
directed most of the supplemental appropriations for
appropriations process, in which authorized projects in all
USACE to projects in Southeast Louisiana. In more recent
areas compete with one another. Still other stakeholders
supplemental appropriations acts, Congress often has
would prefer more attention and funds for other programs
limited the eligibility for investigation and construction
and measures to reduce the nation’s flood risks. (For more
funds to states and territories affected by specific disasters
information, see CRS Report R45017, Flood Resilience and
or disasters during a specified period (see Table 1). In these
Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs.)
acts, Congress often has required monthly reporting to the
appropriations committees on allocations and obligations of
Distribution and Use of Supplemental Funds
USACE has identified the studies and projects anticipated
to receive the majority of investigations and construction
USACE Process After Enactment
funds from P.L. 115-123 and P.L. 116-20. For some states
After a supplemental appropriations bill is enacted, USACE
and territories that qualified for the funds, USACE may not
selects from among qualifying activities those that will
have identified or selected a construction project or study to
receive supplemental appropriations. For P.L. 116-20 and
receive funding. For example, for P.L. 115-123
P.L. 115-123 (the most recently passed bills with USACE
construction appropriations, USACE funded projects in 14
supplemental funding), the Administration published (1) the
of the 33 qualifying states and one of the two qualifying
implementation guidance used to identify projects selected
to receive supplemental appropriations and (2) lists of
USACE typically has not reported on final supplemental
specific projects selected to receive those funds (see
expenditures by project in recent years. Similarly, limited
information is publicly available on how quickly USACE
). The Administration has not released similar guidance and
work was completed and the rate of obligation and
lists for P.L. 114-254. It also has not made public recent
expenditures for projects funded by most supplemental acts.
information on project-level obligations or expenditures of
funds for the bills shown in Table 1.
Future of Flood Risk Reduction
Issues for Congress
The nation’s flood risks appear to be increasing for a
variety of reasons, including changing hydrological
Supplemental vs. Annual Appropriations
conditions (e.g., greater runoff due to impervious surfaces,
more intense rainfall events), and more people and assets
Of the $29.0 billion in supplemental funding that Congress
are located in vulnerable locations. For some coastal areas,
provided in the 2010s, $19.3 billion was for the USACE
relative sea level rise also is increasing risk. Related policy
Construction account. Congress directed that at least $18.6
questions include the following: How effective are federal
billion of the construction funds be for completing new or
investments in USACE flood risk reduction in reducing
ongoing flood risk reduction projects. For context, in the
near- and long-term flood risks? How equitable and
2010s, Congress in annual appropriations acts funded $8.4
efficient are the planning, funding, and delivery of USACE
billion in USACE flood risk reduction projects through the
flood risk reduction projects under supplemental and annual
Construction account ($7.6 billion for inland flooding and
appropriations processes? What will be the future of federal
$0.8 billion for coastal flooding).
efforts to reduce flood risks, and what are the congressional
In P.L. 116-20, P.L. 115-123, and P.L. 113-2, Congress (1)
priorities for USACE in carrying out these efforts?
waived nonfederal cost-sharing requirements for
construction of ongoing projects and (2) allowed
Nicole T. Carter, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
construction costs to exceed their authorization of
Anna E. Normand, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
appropriations. Congress also allowed for a project to move

Supplemental Appropriations for Army Corps Flood Response and Recovery

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