On a cool September morning, two realty specialists from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District’s Real Estate Military Branch ventured out from the district headquarters to conduct compliance inspections. For Connor Gann and Jake Moran, a road trip to a stretch of road in Sioux City and a hay field in South Dakota is just another day at work.
These inspections, which happen year-round, are an essential responsibility ensuring risk reduction and contract compliance of leased government land. In fiscal year 2023, Omaha District completed a total of 783 compliance inspections.
Realty specialists for the District refer to this leased land as an outgrant. The Military Branch primarily inspects five different types of outgrants:
- Out-leases - where the public rents from the government.
- Easements - which includes construction work areas and utility services such as natural gas lines, water or sewer lines, or overhead powerlines.
- Licenses - which are typically granted for a specific purpose, for example, the use of a tower, office space, or parking.
- Permits - which grant the use of space to another federal agency.
- Consents - where the Government agrees with the landowner granting an additional easement to a different party thereby allowing them to occupy the same area as the Government’s easement.
Outgrants can offer a mutually beneficial relationship between private individuals and organizations with the government and installations. The goal of the compliance inspections is to protect the government’s assets while providing a service to the public.
“The government and installations benefit from outgrants by generating an income stream from rent,” Gann said. “They also benefit by saving time and resources from not having to manage the land themselves. Farmers (lessees) are able to generate an income and create a livelihood off of government land. It’s a win-win for all parties.”
Gann oversees the Agriculture Leasing and Grazing program at the District, which allows farmers to rent land owned by the government and installations within the District’s multi-state area of responsibility.
This program generated $2.5 million in revenue for the Omaha District in FY23, which is more than the rest of the USACE enterprise combined. The revenue generated from agriculture leasing is shared between the state and local government and the installations for use in future projects, repairs and improvements.
Compliance inspections ensure that the lessee of government land is following agreed upon conditions. A successful compliance inspection takes effective communication and cooperation with all real estate stakeholders. District realty staff notify the project manager, installation commander and/or the lessee of land before an inspection takes place and offer the opportunity to attend inspections.
“For agricultural leases, this might include inspecting the fencing around the land, checking to make sure the correct crop has been planted or the lessee has not planted or harvested too early or too late as stipulated by the terms of the agreement, and ensuring that the overall maintenance of the land has been taken care of,” Moran said.
Realty specialists of the District, which includes staff at field offices, are required to conduct compliance inspections of outgrants. Most inspections are done annually, though this may vary based on outgrant type.
“A lease on a bank, credit union, or agricultural land must be inspected annually,” Gann said. “Other leases can be inspected up to five years apart.”
Gann, who has been working for the District for nearly three years, said, “my favorite thing about working at the Omaha District is our team leaders, section chiefs, and real estate contracting officers. Our supervisors truly care about their employees and their wellbeing.”
Moran recently joined the District in August and said, “the things I enjoy the most about USACE are the people and the size of the Omaha District map. Being a local to Omaha, working at USACE allows me to work with and travel to smaller places in the Midwest that I would never otherwise be able to see.”
The Omaha District Real Estate Division has specialized teams that support challenging workload requirements and collaborate to meet mission execution within assigned schedules and budgets. Realty staff and teams provide technical expertise and business analysis within the District and offer support and expertise to other federal agencies.
For more information about Omaha District’s Real Estate Division, visit: https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Real-Estate/