There were many challenges this year – finishing the restoration of the Lower Missouri River Basin from the catastrophic flood event of 2019, reintegrating the workforce safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and hurricane first responder deployments. But in the face of unprecedented adversity, the USACE, Omaha District team rose to each challenge by leveraging its industrious culture and continued to successfully support its worldwide missions. The District closed out the fiscal year by executing its largest program ever at $1.75 billion across its four business lines, civil construction, military construction, regulatory mission support, and the bank stabilization program of the Missouri River.
According to Ted H. Streckfuss, Deputy District Engineer, Omaha District, navigating through the challenges of COVID-19 was unchartered territory.
“We were used to seeing our people every day. Then we moved to max-telework, where people were isolated and working from home,” Streckfuss said. “Despite those circumstances, our team moved a massive amount of materials, restored our levees, built projects, deployed our people to respond to hurricane relief efforts, and yet, we continued leveraging tools and resources to execute our largest budget in history.”
“We have a culture and an entrepreneurial spirit to perform in excellence and make an impact on the overall USACE mission,” he added.
Year End Execution
The Omaha District executed 1,498 contract actions and 68% of all actions were awarded to small businesses. Some notable accomplishments include $426 million in civil works and almost $512 million in military mission contracts. Some major accomplishments include 20 awards totaling $31.3 million in partnership with the Air Force, B21 Beddown project at Ellsworth totaling $702 million; special projects include nine projects for the Offutt Flood Recovery efforts totally $609 million; hydropower program at $24.2 million; and the L594 levee restoration at $59.7 million.
Addressing the workforce in an internal communication, Col. Mark Himes, Omaha District Commander said, “I am proud of the amazing work you have accomplished over the last year! Your dedication and commitment to excellence continue to astonish me. The Omaha District has just successfully completed its highest dollar mission execution in its 87-year history, ending at $1.75 billion across our four business lines. This record achievement is a testimonial to the incredible talent present within this world-class organization.”
Hurricane Relief Efforts
Amidst the COVID-19 challenges and the flood recovery efforts in the Midwest, 55 Omaha District employees voluntarily deployed to support the Blue Roof Mission and help the residence who were affected by six hurricanes in the southern United States; Delta, Laura, Henri, Ida, Peter, and Sam. This program in partnership with FEMA provides temporary roofing installations for homeowners until permanent repairs can be made.
“The hurricane relief efforts did not have an impact on our program budget or year-end execution of programs,” Tonya Dutra, Omaha District emergency management specialist said.
“However, it does display how partnerships are very important to our overall mission to deliver vital engineering services and the teamwork involved. Something else to consider while members of our workforce are deployed, colleagues stretched with covering additional assignments,” she added.
2019 Flood Recovery Efforts
The historic 2019 flooding of the Missouri River Basin caused by snow melt that led to flooding, devastated communities, families, and businesses along the river and its tributaries. The event damaged 500 miles of infrastructure along 60 different levee and channel systems across five states. Through the enduring partnership with the city, and state agencies, the District has worked tirelessly to repair the catastrophic damages. To date, the number of materials placed include 3,900,00 cubic yards of clay, 10,200,000 cubic yards of sand, and 812,000 tons of rip rap/shot rock.
The District has closed 100% of active levee breaches, with 31 closed and 0 remaining open, and two levee realignments being constructed.
In 2020, when the World Health Organization characterized the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, the Corps in partnership with Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency planned and created alternate care sites as temporary health emergency facilities to reduce the burden of hospitals for the increasing demands during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Omaha District in partnership with federal, state and local governments completed four facilities. A 100-bed facility in Kalispell, Montana that was completed two days earlier than expected and came in 10% under budget; 2,000 beds at the Denver Convention Center; 1,100 beds at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland Colorado; and in partnership with the Albuquerque District, the Omaha District constructed one facility in Tempe, Arizona.
On Sept. 9, 2021, the White House announced an Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. This Executive Order, states “the health and safety of the Federal workforce, and the health and safety of members of the public with whom they interact, are foundational to the efficiency of the civil service.” Many organizations, including the Corps, offered telework to its workforce as a life safety measure and help slow the spread of the virus.
Balancing the demands of COVID-19, ongoing missions, and the life safety of the workforce remained the top priorities of the District. When the Executive Order from the White House was announced in September, USACE positioned its message to the workforce to be in alignment with the federal guidance.
According to Col. Geoff Van Epps, USACE Northwestern Division Commander, now is the time to discuss how best to protect each of you, your families, and our USACE teammates.
“We all know the President has mandated all federal employees be fully vaccinated as a condition of federal employment by Nov. 22. This is an uncomfortable proposition for some. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether you get the COVID-19 vaccination,” Van Epps said.
“I do ask that if you are still unvaccinated, please have an honest conversation with the medical professional you trust, as well as your family, regarding your and your family’s health and future. You should also have a one-on-one conversation with your supervisor. They can be a great resource and sounding board for you,” he added.
While executing the important mission as the Nation’s federal engineer, workplace health and safety remains the number one priority for the Omaha District. The Corps’ workplaces offer the right protocols, protections for those employees that choose to work from the office, while supervisors continue to support employee flexibilities, i.e., telework, and balance workload responsibilities.
On Aug. 30, 2021, Col. Mark Himes said, “I have made the extremely difficult decision to pause our District Leadership Development Program (LDP) due to the ongoing circumstances and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“This decision was largely based on the current restrictions and the unknown upcoming winter season that may create additional impacts restrictions. I (and the District Corporate Board) strongly desire this program to be a meaningful investment and valuable to further enhancing employee leadership skills and career progression,” Himes said.
“Under normal circumstances, face-to-face engagements allow LDP members the opportunity to network with peers, Omaha District and other USACE leaders, and to have various opportunities to interact with internal and external stakeholders to discuss programs and processes in relevant District matters—you deserve that kind of experience! Given the current remote/virtual environment, our ability to execute a worthwhile experience would be significantly diminished,” he added.