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New USACE Report - Estimating USACE Capital Stock, 1928 - 2016

Published Dec. 14, 2018
Cumulative USACE Capital Stock value for 1928 to 2016.  Values shown in 2016

Cumulative USACE Capital Stock value for 1928 to 2016. Values shown in 2016

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   The US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources recently released a report entitled Estimating USACE Capital Stock, 1928 to 2016.  The report presents the findings of a study to update estimates of the capital stock value of water resources infrastructure built by USACE between 1928 and 2016. This infrastructure consists of many different types of capital such as dams, levees, harbors and waterway improvements, locks, channels, hydroelectric generating works, and recreation facilities. These infrastructure projects provide an annual stream of benefits to the Nation in the form of transportation costs savings, flood damages prevented, electric power production, water supply storage, recreation, and ecosystem restoration that contribute to national economic prosperity; global competitiveness; and the health, safety, and quality of life of our citizens.

Each year, Federal investments in infrastructure are made that increase capital stock value, while the effects of wear and tear, deterioration, and structure retirements decrease its value. The capital stock value at any point in time determines the USACE’s capacity to produce services for the Nation. It is important to monitor the trend in capital stock value as it will ultimately impact the USACE’s ability to produce services and benefits moving into future. Understanding the USACE’s capital stock value can also help inform the review and evaluation of requirements for operations and maintenance (O&M) and new investments.

The purpose of this document is to provide reference estimates of USACE capital stock value trends and is intended for use throughout USACE as well as publicly. The USACE capital stock value has been steadily declining since reaching its peak value of $304 billion in 1982 and is currently valued at $197 billion. While it appears that the era of investment in water resource infrastructure has peaked and passed, these aging infrastructure investments continue to produce substantial annual benefits in the $60 to $70 billion range as the recent Value to the Nation Report shows (USACE Institute for Water Resources 2018). The benefit streams currently observed are not sustainable without additional investment and maintenance of the USACE capital stock. A steady, strong demand placed on deteriorating assets will reach a tipping point where the system cannot meet demands without substantial routine and major maintenance cost increases.  Findings and key points drawn from this study are:

  • The estimated USACE capital stock value increased $5.6 billion on average each year from 1928 to 1982, when it peaked at $304 billion. From 1982 to 2016, the estimated value has decreased, on average, by a little over $3 billion each year. For 2016, USACE capital stock was estimated as being $197 billion or approximately the value between 1961 and 1962, representing a 35% decline from its peak in 1982.  All values are expressed in 2016 dollars.
  • The USACE infrastructure continues to generate benefits that contribute to our Nation’s safety, quality of life, and economic competitiveness. However, the implication of the declining trend in capital stock value is USACE’s ability to provide these important benefits to the Nation will diminish, requiring substantially greater operations and maintenance expenditures (O&M), major rehabilitation, or some combination.
  • If the average annual rate of decline in USACE capital stock value observed from 1982 through 2016 persists, USACE capital stock will have lost approximately half its peak value by the year 2036.
  • Under the current study assumptions, over the next 10 years, about $24 billion of additional investment—or about $2.4 billion annually—would be needed to sustain the capital stock value near its current level. Anything less will result in further decline over that time frame. This implies a 50% increase of the USACE annual investments to support its current capital stock.  Future investments will have to be evaluated in the context of future demands, benefits, and costs.

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For more information, visit

Value to the Nation, USACE Civil Works