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I would like to correct several assertions in your article concerning the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ support to the District of Columbia Public Schools (“Corps Problem,” 12/18/98).
At the request of the D.C. Public Schools, we responded to a call for assistance. As we’ve done for more than 200 years, we answered by offering expert engineering and quality management services. Besides being the nation’s builder of dams, levees, and military installations, we’ve assisted our international partners in rebuilding schools and related infrastructure.
Today, we are using our experience, not as a contractor, but as public engineers to supplement the efforts of the D.C. Public Schools’ staff. Our goal is to make a safe and quality environment where students can grow and learn. The types of management experience and assistance we are providing to the D.C. Schools’ Capital Improvements Program are similar to the kinds of quality products and services we provide to other government agencies.
While we are responsible for the professional and technical execution of work under the program, our activities in program development and contract management are subject to executive guidance and oversight by D.C. school and government authorities.
We feel it is important to note that the D.C. government has issued the contracts we have managed to date. However, we’ve recently received authority to use our own contracts when in the interest of the District of Columbia, and in coordination with the D.C. Procurement Office.
Equally important to note is that as a government agency, the corps does not earn a profit and does not compete with private industry. We rely on contracts with industry to achieve an effective public-private partnership to successfully accomplish the work of agencies such as D.C. Public Schools. We do this by adhering to a budget for the specific work requested by a particular agency.
In the case of D.C. Public Schools, the additional needs and services we offer have caused some increase in our support beyond that envisioned by the original support agreement. This is not unusual. Our ultimate objective with D.C. Public Schools is to augment its facilities management capability so long as we add value to the process.
We will continue to work toward this goal and continue to develop ways to improve the overall effectiveness and implementation of the facilities improvement initiatives. By continuing to put the customer first and by providing high-quality services, we are confident that the modernization of D.C. Public Schools will become a lasting reality.
Acting Chief, Public Affairs
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers