President Bush has nominated Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr., to be the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Feb. 2.

Van Antwerp

If confirmed by the Senate, Van Antwerp would succeed Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock as the Army's Chief of Engineers and the Corps' commander.

Strock announced last August--midway through a chief's typical four-year stint--that he would be stepping down as head of the Corps. At the time, he cited personal reasons for his decision and has not amplified on that since then. Strock has had the lead role for the Corps as it continues to respond to the damage caused along the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Indications are that, if confirmed, Van Antwerp will serve a full term as Corps chief, rather than filling out the remainder of Stock's term.

Van Antwerp has led the Army Accessions Command, Fort Monroe, Va. , since November 2004, where he is in charge of the process of bringing in new personnel, from enlisted soldiers to officers, from the Army's first contact with a recruit through completing initial training.

A 1972 West Point graduate, Van Antwerp's engineering credentials include service as commanding general at the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he was Commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School. Other Corps of Engineers command assignments include the South Atlantic Division and the Los Angeles District during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

The Army Corps of Engineers has tagged 146 levees as having an unacceptable risk of failure in major floods. Speaking at ASCE’s Civil Engineering Forum for Innovation on Jan. 30, Maj. Gen. Don Riley, the Corps’ deputy chief for civil works, said the Corps plans a major campaign in March to explain new risk information that has been developed. He says the Corps wants people to have information that will allow them to “take responsibility for their own safety.”

View the USACE list of levees at risk ( , 15 kb)

John Paul Woodley, Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, says Van Antwerp has experience in all aspects of the military engineers' profession. "That makes him really, truly, very deeply qualified to do this," he says.

Woodley adds, "He's very outspoken, with a delightful sense of humor… You're never in doubt about how he's actually thinking, in my view…"

Woodley says that where Van Antwerp became known in the Pentagon was as the Army's assistant chief of staff for installation management, where he weas responsible for the Army's array of forts, bases, arsenals and other posts. He worked on improvements in housing on Army bases and plans that led to the latest round of base closures and realignments, which was approved in 2005.

"He was very highly regarded for his leadership and tact and diplomacy and all the things you need to be a successful Chief of Engineers," says Woodley. He adds that Van Antwerp, like Strock is "known…as someone who thinks strategically and thinks about the doctrine about how we should go about providing engineering services both on the battlefield and the civil [works] arena."

Woodley says that Strock "has been magnificent" as chief. "He led the Corps through a tremendous period of growth, a tremendous period of challenge both at home and abroad. The nation owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude that will never fully be repaid."

Van Antwerp, whose Army biography refers to him as "General Van," has a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Long Island University. He is a registered professional engineer in Virginia.