Posted On: November 10, 2022

USACE: What Does the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Do?

Photo source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters Website
Photo by: Stephen Baack

What Is USACE?

USACE stands for the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

What Is the Army Corp of Engineers?

The Army Corps of Engineers provides public engineering services for the purposes of national security, economic stability, and disaster relief.

Is the Army Corps of Engineers Part of the Army?

Most Army Engineer Corps employees are civilians, but yes, USACE is officially part of the U.S. Army and overseen by military personnel.

What Is the Primary Job of The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers?

One of the oldest and most prominent responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is maintaining U.S. waterways as safe and navigable avenues for commercial transportation.

As a result, they're experts in engineering operations in and around bodies of water, like dredging, damming, and more.

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What Does The Army Corp Of Engineers Do?

USACE does…a lot.

Although their focus is now largely on public works, the Army Engineer Corps has its roots (as you'd expect) in combat engineering – work that directly supports a war effort. It's a role that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. In fact, the USACE combat engineer motto is essayons, meaning "let us try" in French. It's a tribute to the French engineers who helped the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

And it continues today – USACE combat engineers build the infrastructure for training, housing, and deploying troops, equipment, and other resources. They lend their expertise to commanders to help solve or avoid engineering problems. They sometimes build necessary infrastructure in the battle zone or destroy the enemy's infrastructure.

Their overseas projects provide support for diplomatic and foreign aid. They've served as the engineering lead on infrastructure projects in more than 130 countries worldwide – building highways, railroads, airports, ports, and waterways.

They support national security at home through disaster relief, flood risk management, shore protection, and infrastructure support – largely focused on waterways, as mentioned above. They maintain more than 12,000 miles of commercially navigable shipping channels. Two-thirds of U.S. consumer goods and over half of oil imports go through their deepwater ports.

They're also the 5th largest electricity supplier in the U.S. because they manage and operate 75 hydroelectric facilities.

Their waterway responsibilities have naturally extended into recreational and environmental duties, as well. They're the nation's largest provider of outdoor recreation, mostly through lakes and beaches, and as a result, have taken a role in promoting recreational water safety. They've also undertaken ecosystem restoration, wetlands preservation, and hazardous site cleanup.

Who Does the Army Engineer Corps Hire?

Obviously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employs many different types of engineers, including civil, mechanical, environmental, chemical, structural, and electrical.

Then there are related occupations like architects, engineering technicians, survey technicians, and carpenters. Most construction personnel are private contractors but need employees to inspect and monitor construction operations.

They need realty specialists, contract specialists, accountants, and lawyers to handle a global engineering enterprise's financial and legal aspects.

They retain control of various locks, dams, and other structures and hire operators to manage the day-to-day functionality.

Their environmental and recreational duties call for ecologists, natural resource specialists, environmental biologists, wildlife biologists, fish biologists, and park rangers.

And as with every enterprise, they need administrators, information technology professionals, and other support roles.

How to Join the Army Corps of Engineers

You don't have to enlist in the military to join the Army Engineer Corps. In fact, military personnel only make up a tiny fraction of USACE employees – around 650 out of 37,000.

The rest are civilians, although it is easier to score a position if you're a military veteran or have previous experience working for the federal government. Don't be surprised if the job you want requires that sort of background.

Applying for a civilian position in the Army Corps of Engineers is much like applying for any other federal job. You apply through the USAJobs website, where you can browse jobs and submit your resume.

Pay careful attention to the eligibility and qualification requirements for the position you're interested in. Unlike the private sector, the job requirements aren't a suggestion or a bargaining tool – you'll actually have to meet the requirements to proceed. You will also need to go through a rigorous background check.

Before you can start work on-site at a US Army Corps of Engineers project – as a contractor or a USACE employee – you'll need to complete training on the USACE Engineering Manual, EM 385-1-1. It's the Army Corps of Engineers equivalent of OSHA training.

Most workers need 16 hours of EM 385 training, but managers, supervisors, and crew leaders need the 24-hour course.  Site Safety Health Officers (SSHOs) need an initial 40-hour course with an 8-hour annual refresher.

Often, the cheapest and most convenient way to complete EM 385 training is to take an online, self-paced course with an approved provider like us. Get started today!

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