The Army has made several changes in its Corps of Engineers senior positions, including the selection of a new deputy chief of engineers and a new head of military and international operations. The moves are part of what industry officials say is the Army's typical spring and summer changes in top-officer assignments.
Among a group of shifts in important Corps jobs, the Army on April 14 named Maj. Gen. Michael C. Wehr as deputy chief of engineers and a deputy commanding general. Wehr, who has led the Corps Mississippi Valley Division since August 2014, will succeed Maj. Gen. Richard L. Stevens as the Corps' No. 2 official.
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite remains the Corps commanding general and the Army's chief of engineers. Semonite, who became chief in May 2016, is expected to stay in that post for about another three years.
Speaking of Wehr, Bruce Berwick, senior vice president and director of business development with Dawson & Associates, Washington, D.C., says, "He's got a rich and diverse experience, extremely well qualified." Berwick, former commander of the Corps Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, adds, "He comes from one of the most complex commands within the Corps of Engineers, so he's well versed, and I know [he] will do a terrific job as Gen. Semonite's deputy."
Jim Walker, American Association of Port Authorites director of navigation policy and legislation, adds that Wehr has considerable experience with navigation issues concerning both "blue and brown water"—that is, coastal and inland waterways.
Taking over from Wehr at the Vicksburg, Miss.-based Mississippi Valley Division is Maj. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser, who has been in charge of the Combined Security Transition Command, in Afghanistan.
In another key appointment, Maj. Gen. Anthony C. Funkhouser has been selected as deputy commanding general for military and international operations, based at Corps headquarters. Funkhouser is now commander of the Army's Center for Initial Military Training, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. He will succeed Maj. Gen. Mark W. Yenter, who has headed Corps military and international operations since July 2015.
John Doyle, special counsel with law and lobbying firm Jones Walker LLP, says Wehr and Funkhouser "can be viewed as up-and-comers" at the Corps.
Among other Corps-related announcements, Brig. Gen. Diana M. Holland was named commanding general of the South Atlantic Division, based in Atlanta. She is commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
The Pacific Ocean Division commander, Brig. Gen. Peter B. Andrysiak Jr., is moving to be deputy commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. A replacement has not been announced.
Brig. Gen. David C. Hill will shift to be commander of the Corps' Transatlantic Division, based in Winchester, Va., from his current post as head of the Southwestern Division. The Transatlantic Division, whose responsibilities include construction programs in the Middle East and Central Asia, is currently led by Maj. Gen. Robert D. Carlson.
The Army hasn't yet announced a new commander for the Dallas-based Southwestern Division.
Semonite and the newly appointed Corps officers will have to face an important civil-works program, which "will be a resource challenge, almost certainly," Berwick says. "Like always, the Corps has more projects that are authorized and that are good projects and that should be constructed than they have funds to execute."
Berwick and Doyle expect Trump's long-awaited $1-trillion infrastructure plan to include some Corps civil-works projects. "But exactly what that's going to look like and how it's going to happen is something that remains to be seen," says Berwick.
Doyle, a former top Army civil-works official, says, "I fully expect that locks and dams, for example, are going to be included within the coverage of that program, once decision-making emerges and begins to take form."
The Dept. of Homeland Security appears to be taking the lead in overseeing President Trump's promised new wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. But Doyle thinks the Corps will play a role in the project. He says, "They are the obvious governmental candidate with the right combination of experience and talent sets to help the federal government do that. … I'd be pretty surprised if somebody else wound up getting that assignment, once it's given."
But Berwick says a Corps role in constructing the border wall is "a possibility, not a certainty."
The first test for the wall will come in a spending bill to fund the government past April 28, when a stopgap 2017 appropriations measure expires. To get the wall project started, Trump wants Congress to include $1.4 billion in the upcoming spending bill, but some lawmakers have balked at that suggestion.