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Release No: 1065-05
October 19, 2005

Secretary of the Army to Convene Panel to Evaluate Performance of Hurricane Protection Systems in New Orleans

Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, has directed the Secretary of the Army, Dr. Francis J. Harvey, to convene an independent panel of national experts under the direction of the National Academies to evaluate the performance of hurricane protection systems in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

The National Academies will assemble a multidisciplinary (e.g., engineering, atmospheric sciences, etc.) panel drawn from the public and private sectors and academia. The purpose of this panel will be to assist the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) (ASA(CW)) in conducting a forensic investigation of the performance of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) projects during Hurricane Katrina.

The National Academies Panel will perform a high-level review and issue findings and recommendations based primarily but not solely on the data gathered by the USACE Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) and an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Independent Review Panel. The findings of the National Academies Panel will be subject to a peer review process before being released under the imprimatur of the National Academies.

This forensic study is to focus on existing levees and/or floodwalls that were overtopped, breached, or failed during Hurricane Katrina, and whether such situations were the result of design, construction, or operation and maintenance issues, soil and geo-technical conditions, changed assumptions upon which the design or construction were based, or as the result of the severity of Hurricane Katrina.

The study will be completed as quickly as possible so that design or construction issues can be identified and corrected in time to be incorporated into the reconstruction of the existing hurricane protection system.

The National Academies Panel is expected to produce its final report by July 2006. All reports generated by these panels will be made available to the public. For additional information regarding these panels, please contact the Army Public Affairs Office at (703) 697-2564.

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