The Army Corps of Engineers’ Iron Triangle: The Daily Show
The U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers– it’s not just
the military’s nerd squad, it’s also the place you want to
go if you want something built. Even if no one needs it.
Roy Wood Jr. has the story. WOOD:The U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers–it’s the largest public
engineering organizationin the world.700 military personnel,
over 30,000 civilians.And these guys
build things likethe Washington Monument. Damn.The Panama Canal. Damn.And dams. Damn!These guys are bad asses,
and I’m surejournalist and Corps expert
Michael Grunwald agrees.Lately, they built a lot of environmentally
destructive boondoggles. WOOD:Wait, what the hell
did he just say?They build a lot of stuff
that nobody needs that tend to do a lot
of environmental damage. WOOD:
So what? I’m an American.I don’t care
about the environment.Well, are you paying for it. -Who paying for it?
-You’re paying for it. -You’s a liar. I ain’t paying
for it. -American taxpayers -are paying for it.
-(scoffs) I ain’t got no bill. I didn’t get no bill
from the Army Corps. They’ve never really been
accountable to the taxpayers. Members of Congress
have always protected them. WOOD:Man, shut your hatin’ ass
up. Talking aboutthey wasting taxpayer dollars.
But here’s a billion-dollartransformer thing
on the Mississippi Riverthat the Corps built
to handle barge traffic.Looks like
a great investment to me.-No.
-WOOD:Hater number two,environmentalist Brad Walker.This was built to, uh, handle barge traffic
that has never come. Nowhere near what they used
to project its construction. But how do you know
it’s not coming yet? How are you so sure that there aren’t multiple
barges coming in late at night that you don’t even see? It’s barge night life
going, bruh. You know the river don’t even
get popping till 3:00. It’s crazy on the river
at night. Yeah, it doesn’t
really matter what time, because the Corps
keeps track of all this. It’s their statistics
that we use to check how much barge traffic
is going up and down the river. WOOD:
Oh, is that right, Mr. Hater?Well, let’s check out
those statistics then.The blue line represents
actual barge trafficand the green line representsthe Corps of Engineers
projections.Looks like those projections
are pretty accurate to me.Look… Oh, wait, why
is the blue line doing that?Come back, blue line.
Damn it!Soon it’s gonna hardly be
any damager traffic,and the Corps knows this.If the Army Corps of Engineers
keeps track of barge traffic, why didn’t they just go,
“Hey… we ain’t building that (bleep).
That’s stupid.” I wish they would. But the Army Corps considered
the barge industry their client. WOOD:Oh, a client. Is that why
the Corps is involvedwith seven new projects
for the barge lobbythat would cost
billions of dollars?Well, you got to remember
there’s this kind of iron triangle that goes
on between the Army Corps, members of Congress
and the special interests that benefit
from these projects. WOOD:Iron triangle? Man,
I hadn’t tried that positionsince my girlfriend
and her sorority sisterwas with me and we had that…
(clears throat)Uh, n-never mind.Look, I had to get
to the bottom of this.So I went to the man
at the top– the headof the Corps of Engineers,
General Thomas Bostick.The Corps of Engineers
doesn’t decide on which projects to do. The congress
authorizes projects. It’s good that you get
your orders from Congress and not the lobbyists, correct? Absolutely. Not the lobby,
’cause you can’t all be in bed. That’s just awkward.
That’s… ugh. Now, what I will say is we work
with a lot of the leaders, uh, on… in… that-that may have ties
to the-to the lobby that help with ideas
on what they recommend, uh, the Corps of Engineers
and Congress, uh, pursue as priorities. WOOD:
So, lobbyists convince Congressto fund certain projects,
Congress authorizesthe Corps of Engineers
to do those projects,and the Corps
builds those projects,which pleasures the lobbyists.Damn, I guess that
is like my iron triangle.Except, in this case,
taxpayers get (bleep).But it turns out this goes
beyond wasting tax dollars,as hater number two showed me
in New Madrid, Missouri.To benefit the farm lobby the
Corps plans to drainthese wetlands right hereby building a new levee.
Just one problem.WALKER:
If we put that levee in here, other areas are gonna be at risk
of getting flooded. It’ll affect people in Kentucky,
it’ll affect people in southern Illinois,
it’ll affect people upstream in Missouri. WOOD:Wait, the Corps levees
could cause flooding?Where have I heard that before?The worst Army Corps failure
in its history is the drowning of New Orleans. WOOD:Oh, yeah. The Corps poorly
engineered the levee systemthat failed during Katrina.
And the Corps drainednearby wetlands that may have
further protected New Orleansin the first place.
And now critics sayproposed levees
like this one in New Madridcreate flood risks upstream?
Hold on.That’s St. Louis.I don’t want to lose
St. Louis, man. That’s the home of Nelly. I love St. Louis. So you’re saying Nelly is safe? I’m not saying Nelly’s safe. We’re talking Nelly, man.
This made classics. Down, down, baby, yo’ street in the Range Rover. Boom, boom, street sweeper. Cocked back, ready to let it go. Well, anyway, uh, we want to protect the American
people to the degree we can, or reduce their risk. With some of the projects
that you do, I think we should just assign
priority levels. This is priority A, for “absolutely,
let’s do this project” all the way down to priority D, as in “dumb”, as it “don’t do this”, as in “demolish the idea”. We don’t even consider
priority D projects. Except for New Madrid.Yeah, New Madrid, the
concrete transformer thingy,those other barge projects…Here’s the thing–
the corps doesdo plenty of A and B projects,but as long as they
keep getting these Ds…man, Nelly, you better
carry a life vest with you.Learn how to swim or something.