House and Senate leaders have released the final text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the coming year, which features several provisions of interest to ACEC member firms. The House is scheduled to vote this week, with Senate action to follow next week.
The bill includes the latest Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), biennial legislation authorizing Corps of Engineers projects and programs for navigation, flood control, and environmental mitigation. WRDA includes $6.58 billion in environmental infrastructure assistance for community projects and state infrastructure programs carried out in partnership with the Corps, as well as harbor maintenance and dredging, inland waterway construction, and water supply and water conservation projects. It also provides technical assistance funding for resiliency planning.
The legislation includes ACEC-supported provisions advancing climate-related risk management of Corps projects and reporting of NEPA review information. The climate-related risk management provisions show a commitment to rebuild and maintain more resilient infrastructure calculated to meet projected slow onset and rapid onset climate-related events like sea-level rise and hurricane storm surge. Reporting of NEPA review information should begin to help highlight and remedy project delays and allow projects to timely meet resilience challenges. ACEC will continue to engage with Congress and the Corps to improve permitting processes and support and align design practices based on climate-related risk management.
Click here for more information from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
Lawmakers also included language to address task order delivery and the Corps of Engineers practice of requiring additional information from contract holders, known as Task Order Requirements Notifications (TORNs). In recent years the Corps has instituted a new requirement for an additional submission before awarding a task order from a multi-award task order contract. This requirement is a change from decades of practice and is not in response to any new law or regulation. This provision returns to the previous practice and will save the government and industry time and money.
ACEC has worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to improve this process, unfortunately, these measures remained costly, time consuming and a great burden to the A/E community, causing unnecessary delays. Congress has rightly addressed this problem, noting the continued backlog of unexecuted projects and these added process steps. At a time of significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure, improving this process is essential.
Lastly, the bill includes an industry-backed provision calling for greater use of integrated project delivery (IPD) contracts. IPD is an effective method of delivering certain construction projects, particularly complex projects such as hospitals. A comprehensive study by the University of Minnesota linked project success to IPD, finding that such projects using IPD are delivered on-time and on-budget. The provision calls on each of the military services to include IPD in its project delivery.
Unfortunately, negotiators declined to include an ACEC-backed provision to address credits for forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans on transportation agency contracts. Despite successful House passage and broad bipartisan support from the committees of jurisdiction, the senior Republican on the Senate Small Business Committee, Rand Paul (R-KY), continued to object to its inclusion in the final bill. ACEC will be working with member firms and state member organization leaders on next steps to provide relief to impacted firms.