Reconstruction Proceeding in Iraq Despite Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2007 The reconstruction effort under way in Iraq is one of the most extensive and challenging of all time, but also one of the most important, the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs today.
Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Johnson, who served as the first commander of the corps’ Gulf Region Division, reported that the Iraqi reconstruction program “is yielding positive, tangible results every day and has significantly improved the lives of the Iraqi people.”
Despite a challenging and often hostile work environment, Johnson reported that some 4,000 Corps of Engineers soldiers and civilian employees have seen more than 2,800 projects completed. “We have completed 13 refurbished hospitals that can serve 5,500 patients a day, restored water treatment facilities benefiting over 2.3 million Iraqis, completed over 250 border forts, helping to secure more than 2,000 miles of Iraqi borders, completed over 800 new or renovated schools serving 325,000 Iraqi children, and have increased electric power generation, benefiting 1.3 million homes,” he said.
Meanwhile, the corps helped increase crude oil production by 300,000 barrels a day over pre-war levels, Johnson told the committee.
At least 80 percent of the projects assessed by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction met contract specifications, and SIGIR’s most recent quarterly report noted that about 90 percent of Army Corps projects met contract requirements, he said.
But successful projects don’t tend to be the ones that get attention, Johnson said. He acknowledged that some projects have run into problems, but said they’re corrected as quickly as possible once identified, with lessons learned applied across the board.
“The people of the United States expect us to do our job right, on time and on budget,” he said. “We share that same expectation.”
Johnson said the Corps of Engineers’ experience with Iraqi reconstruction is helping it develop as a “stronger, more capable organization.” He praised members of the corps and gave special tribute to the 12 seriously wounded and two killed while supporting reconstruction efforts.
Those within the organization “know that success in Iraq and the global war on terror depends on our ability to help the Iraqi people build the infrastructure of a strong and functional democracy,” he said.
“Certainly the work in Iraq is challenging and difficult,” he said, “but reconstruction efforts are a vital component to our campaign in Iraq and in Iraq’s progress toward stability and peace.”
Johnson joined Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, David M. Satterfield, the State Department’s senior advisor and coordinator for Iraq, and Mark Ward, senior deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Asia and the Near East in testifying on the reconstruction effort.
Bowen, recently returned from Iraq, told the committee he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Baghdad security plan is yielding successes that will enhance reconstruction efforts. That’s the first time in the last 20 months he’s returned from Iraq with this positive sense, he said.