Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, President Obama's choice to be the next chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, got a generally positive reception from members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) at a May 25 hearing.

View a webcast of the hearing and see copies of senators' and witnesses' prepared statements here.

If Bostick is confirmed, he will have a busy travel schedule. Several senators invited him to their states to see important projects in their states--projects that the lawmakers want to see the Corps fund.

The EPW Committee won't vote on Bostick's nomination--the Armed Services Committee has that jurisdiction. Bostick hasn't had his official confirmation hearing before Armed Services yet.

But because EPW oversees the Corps' civil works program--river locks and dams, harbor dredging and ecosystem restoration projects--past nominees for the top Corps jobs have appeared before that panel.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) expressed concern about Bostick's lack of experience with the civil works program.

He said, "While you're clearly a very smart, very well qualified engineer, you don't have direct civil works experience."
Vitter said that of the 34 Corps chiefs since 1900, only one other officer did not have a civil works background.

Bostick said that while he hasn't worked directly on civil works projects, in 1993 he did serve as executive officer to then-Corps chief, Lt. Gen. Arthur Williams, assisting Williams during a period of severe Midwest floods.

It's worth noting that Vitter--and all the other committee members--voiced no opposition to Bostick.  In talking with the nominee, Vitter used the phrase "before and after confirmation."

Vitter's views about Bostick bear watching because, in 2007,  he and Louisiana's senior senator, Mary Landrieu (D), held up a floor vote for weeks on Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, before he was confirmed as Corps commanding general. 

The Corps has long played a critical role in Louisiana, and came under intense scrutiny after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans in 2005. Landrieu and Vitter put "holds" on Van Antwerp's nomination until he visited Louisiana and answered their questions.

Van Antwerp was confirmed and served four years as chief. In early May, the Army held a retirement ceremony for him. 

Bostick did talk about infrastructure needs. Citing inland waterways, Bostick said in his opening statement, "Our nation's continued economic prosperity depends on these infrastructure  investments."

Later he said, "We need to look at how we prepare the infrastructure for the long haul. Funding has been a challenge, not only in the country, but specifically, I think, in the Corps and some of the inland waterways that we are resposible [for]."

The hearing dealt with three nominees, including Bostick.  EPW will vote on the other two candidates: William C. Ostendorf, who's up for a new term as a member of hte Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Richard Howorth, nominee for a seat on the Tennessee Valley Authority board.