If confirmed, Woodley would become the main Dept. of Defense overseer for the Corps of Engineers. He would have to defend the Bush administration?s proposed budget cut for the civil works program to congressional appropriators who repeatedly have rejected such spending reductions.

At his hearing, Woodley pledged to follow a new congressional directive that bars DOD from transferring or privatizing any Corps civil works functions without specific approval from Capitol Hill. That mandate is contained in the recently enacted 2003 omnibus appropriations measure.

Woodley told the Armed Services panel, ?I do not have any plans or intentions that are inconsistent with [the appropriations provision]. If in the future I have ideas to improve the operation of the Corps of Engineers civil works functions, the Secretary of Defense has been clear on the need and importance of consulting with Congress as an important first step with respect to any such idea.?

He also said he would commit to having independent reviews of major Corps civil works projects, something environmental groups have been pushing for. In addition, Woodley said that maintaining Corps water infrastructure facilities ?is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Corps of Engineers.

It would be a very high priority for me, if confirmed.? In his written responses to prepared questions from the committee, Woodley also cited as other challenges "the need to repair our damaged environment and the need to ensure the physical security of the Corps? infrastructure around the country."

Since October 2001, Woodley has been DOD?s assistant deputy undersecretary for installations and environment. Before that, he was Virginia?s Secretary of Natural Resources for more than three years. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who introduced Woodley to the Armed Services panel, called him ?very steady, considerate and knowledgable? and ?a trusted team player.?

Environmental groups, who have leveled strong criticism at the Corps over the past several years, have not opposed Woodley. David Conrad, water resources specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, says, ?We?re actually happy to see that they?re getting an assistant secretary in?because the program has needed that.?

Undersecretary of the Army Les Brownlee has been doing double duty, serving as acting civil works head since last March, when former House member Mike Parker suddenly resigned the civil works job under pressure from the White House. Officials at the White House were unhappy about Parker?s criticism of the administration's 2003 budget request for the Corps.

Armed Services has jurisdiction over nominees for DOD positions, but members of the Environment and Public Works Committee also would like Woodley to testify at a separate hearing of their panel. The environment committee has responsibility for the Corps? civil works program.

here were no signs of opposition to John Paul Woodley Jr., President Bush?s nominee to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) said he hoped the panel would move swiftly on Woodley and the two other nominees who appeared before the committee on Feb.27. Armed Service?s top Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan, said that Woodley and the other nominees were ?very qualified for the positions to which they?ve been nominated.?