Congress recognized the need to maintain a strong planning program in Section 936 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. In pursuit of planning excellence, the Corps of Engineers has designated six national Planning Centers of Expertise (PCXs), and one sub-Center, and identified their roles in support of plan formulation and complex technical evaluations associated with plan formulation. The National PCXs oversee peer review, planning model certification, and provide training, technical services, policy development support, and other services to the USACE. PCXs have been established for Coastal Storm Risk Management; Flood Risk Management; Inland Navigation; Deep Draft Navigation and Small Boat Harbors sub-Center; Ecosystem Restoration; and Water Management and Reallocation.
The Planning Centers of Expertise enhance the Corps of Engineers' planning capability for inland navigation, deep draft navigation (including small boat harbors), ecosystem restoration, coastal and storm damage reduction, flood risk management, and water management and reallocation studies, through their focus on the technical evaluations and reviews associated with plan formulation during the preparation of decision documents. The Centers strengthen planner core competencies by assisting District Project Delivery Teams (PDTs) with technical expertise, peer reviews, model certifications, technology transfer, planner training, and providing lessons learned and best practices to the larger Planning Community of Practice.
PCX Roles and Responsibilities
1. Technical Services. Provide technical services to District PDTs from subject matter experts. At the direction of a Regional Management Board or the HQ Planning Advisory Board (PAB) and on a reimbursable basis, accomplish costly, highly complex, and controversial studies or key analytical components of such studies for District PDTs, and on multiregional or national efforts. Provide advice to HQUSACE, the laboratories, and other partners or stakeholders on significant regional or nationwide planning issues.
2. Peer Review. Manage Agency Technical Review (ATR) by assigning ATR Leads and certifying ATRs. Function as the Review Management Organization for Independent External Peer Review (IEPR) by providing IEPR managers to interface with the Corps project delivery team and the outside organization conducting the IEPR.
Connect to guidance and other helpful resources on Peer Review, District Quality Control (DQC), and Agency Technical Review (ATR).
3. R&D. Assist in identifying Research and Development (R&D) priorities within the mission area to ensure field driven needs are identified and prioritized, and coordinate the recommendations with the PAB and the deputy, Planning Community of Practice.
4. Training. Conduct training opportunities related to the assigned mission area to promote and maintain planning technical competency. Support the Planning Associates (PA) program through development and training of PAs along the CW business lines and specific PCX functions. Support national goals in enhancing professional and technical development, sharing knowledge, and promoting communication within the Community of Practice (CoP) and through coordination and integration of planning policies with the HQUSACE Planning CoP.
5. Model Certification. Certify or approve for use the planning models identified in the Project Review Plans and add to the planners' tool box of certified models using the approved model certification protocol.
- Planning Models
Connect to guidance, certified models, models in review, model documentation, and the Ecosystem Restoration Model Library.
6. Policy Development Support. PCXs may supplement the HQUSACE staff in policy compliance review, if requested, on a reimbursable basis, on projects where the PCX has had no prior participation. Centers can also assist by providing policy training to the field or reviewing draft policy.
7. Process Improvement. Develop standard processes and procedures related to their mission areas to support District execution. Support Corps-wide process improvement initiatives through their subject matter experts' participation on process improvement teams.
8. Lessons Learned. Manage a program of sharing lessons learned through coordination with HQUSACE and MSC experts, sponsoring webinars and workshops, technology transfer, or use of intranet resources such as SharePoint.
More information about the PCXs:
Planning Centers of Expertise Websites and Quick Reference Information
- PCX-CSRM Update and Best Practices from Recent Studies (24 February)
- This webinar provided an overview of the National Planning Center of Expertise (PCX) for Coastal Storm Risk Management
(CSRM) and best practices for coastal study teams. Representatives of the USACE PCX-CSRM, including Larry Cocchieri, Donald
Cresitello, Naomi Fraenkel, Roselle Stern, and Danielle Tommaso addressed best practices and lessons learned for project
delivery teams culled from recent CSRM planning studies. This information is intended to reduce risks to study schedules and
funding, minimize or avoid technical challenges, and assist less experienced project delivery team members in decision making.
Other presentation topics included targeted Agency Technical Reviews, coastal planning models, non-Federal sponsor
coordination, economic considerations, critical infrastructure, future without project conditions, and updates and lessons learned
from the National Nonstructural Committee.
- Inland Navigation Planning and Risk-Informed Management: An Introduction to Inland Navigation (6 August)
- This webinar, presented by the Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation and
Risk-Informed Economics Division (PCXIN-RED), featured a brief introduction to the
center and the U.S. inland waterways system generally; the common types of inland
navigation studies and economic evaluation required for them; and a general discussion
of how the business line has been incorporating risk-informed decision making. The
information presented was geared towards introducing planners and potential project
delivery team members to inland navigation analyses and the ways the PCXIN-RED can
assist teams in scoping or conducting these studies.
- Ecological Model Review and Certification Process (9 July)
- This webinar, presented by Nate Richards (ECO-PCX Model Review Manager), provided
an overview of the model certification process for ecological models and presented
advancements in the process. Model review and certification has a reputation of taking a
long time and requiring significant funds. These misconceptions, among others, have
decreased in recent years thanks to a greater understanding of the certification
requirements, increased emphasis on model quality by planning teams, delegation of
approval authority, and implementation of best practices. The webinar also provided
useful information and tips for planners, decision-makers, researchers, and others that
develop, implement, and review aspects of ecological planning models.
- Small Boat Harbor Planning Sub-Center of Expertise Overview (25 June)
- This webinar provided an overview of the Small Boat Harbor Planning Sub-Center of
Expertise (SBH- PSCX) and the nuances of SBH planning. This Sub-Center of Expertise
functions collaboratively as a sub-unit of the Deep Draft Navigation Planning Center of
Expertise, with a specific focus on harbors that serve vessels that are primarily 14-foot
draft or less. Presenters including Cindy Upah (Planning Chief, Alaska District and
Technical Deputy, SBH-PSCX) and Eric Johnson (Economist, Alaska District) discussed
planning for these multi-use harbors, which entails special considerations for a mix of
commercial, recreation, subsistence, government, and research vessels. The emphasis on
small boat harbor planning recognizes the specialization of technical analyses that is
generally not found in inland or deep draft navigation planning analyses. The presenters
also detailed the range of services offered by the SBH-PSCX, from production to review
management to consultation with PDTs.
- Ecological Model Development within the Planning Phase (20 February)
- This webinar provided an overview of the advancements being made in ecological model
development. The webinar was presented by Dr. Kyle McKay (ERDC-EL), Dr. Todd
Swannack (ERDC-EL), and Nate Richards (ECO-PCX Model Review Manager), and
focused on developed and implemented tools, guidelines, and methodologies that
improve the way we develop ecological models and align development, certification, and
project planning. Case studies presented demonstrated that model development and
certification are not only possible within SMART Planning timelines, but also valuable to
- Deep Draft Navigation: A Comprehensive Overview (23 January)
- This webinar provided a comprehensive overview of deep draft navigation in USACE,
intended for project delivery team members at every level and in every discipline who are
looking to better understand this mission area. Presenters discussed broad influences in
world trade routes, described USACE deep draft ports in the nation and port
characteristics, and addressed planning, economics, engineering, and environmental
considerations within a feasibility study in the spirit of SMART and risk-informed
planning. Presenters from the Deep Draft Navigation Planning Center of Expertise
(DDNPCX) included: Eric Bush (SAD Planning Chief and Director of the DDNPCX), Stacey
Roth (Plan Formulation Lead, Jacksonville District), Todd Nettles (Technical Director,
DDNPCX), Max Millstein (Senior Economist, SAD), Michael Wolz (Lead Civil Engineer,
SAD), and Angela Dunn (Environmental Branch Chief, Jacksonville District).
- Incorporating Risk-Informed Decision Making for Costal Storm Risk Management Studies (18 October)
- Mr. Steve Couch (New York District), Ms. Carrie McCabe (Fort Worth District Regional
Planning and Environmental Center at Galveston District) and Mr. Jeff Gebert
(Philadelphia District) provided an overview of the Coastal Storm Risk Management
(CSRM) business line, and discussed business line specific policies and guidance relevant
to these studies as well as common challenges and risks. The presentation was
moderated by Larry Cocchieri, CSRM Planning Center of Expertise (North Atlantic
Division). The presentation addressed conducting iterations of risk informed planning in a
CSRM feasibility study with a focus on the various areas where CSRM studies differ from
other types of business line studies.
- Inland Flood Risk Management Studies: Risk-Informed Business Line Introduction (16 August)
- Mr. Nick Applegate, Economic and Risk Analysis Section Chief, Sacramento District; Mr.
Peter Blodgett, PE, Senior Hydraulic Engineer, Sacramento District; Ms. Sara Schultz,
Senior Water Resources Planner, Sacramento District; and Mr. Eric Thaut, Deputy
Director, FRM-PCX provided an overview of the Flood Risk Management business line.
The presenters discussed specific policies and guidance relevant to flood risk
management studies, as well as common challenges and risks in flood risk management.
The presentation addressed conducting iterations of risk informed planning in a flood risk
management feasibility study, including practical examples. This webinar was the second
in a series of seven business line webinars presented in the PCoP webinar series.
- Water Management and Reallocation Studies: Risk-Informed Business Line Introduction (2 August)
- Ms. Cherilyn Plaxco, Technical Director, Water Management and Reallocation Studies
Planning Center of Expertise, provided an overview of the Water Management and
Reallocation business line, specifically discussing business line specific policies and
guidance relevant to water reallocation studies as well as common challenges and risks in
water reallocation. The presentation addressed conducting iterations of risk-informed
planning in a water allocation feasibility study including analysis of a case study, and
focused on the various areas where water allocation studies differ from other types of
business line studies.
- Plan Formulation Strategies for Ecosystem Restoration Projects (1 September)
- This webinar presented formulation strategies that have been successfully applied on ecosystem restoration studies. It was
presented by Mr. Leigh Skaggs, HQ Office of Water Project Review.
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Summary Series Wrap-up (1 May)
- Bill Frechione
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Navigation Economic System Modeling (24 April)
- Buddy Langdon
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Great Lakes Vessel Operating Costs (17 April)
- This webinar, presented by Roger Haberly, Stephen Stalikas (both Regional Economists, Buffalo District), and Bill Frechione
(Regional Economist, Pittsburgh District) discussed the Great Lakes fleet and vessel types and also provided an overview of
inland navigation vessel operating costs.
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Elasticity of Demand - Shipper Responsiveness (10 April)
- Michael R. Hilliard, Ph.D.
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Navigation Component Engineering Reliability (3 April)
- Gabriela M. Lyvers
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Engineering Reliability (27 March)
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Transportation Rate Analysis and Externalities (20 March)
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Waterway Traffic Projections (13 March)
- Wes Walker
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Navigation Data Resources Webinar (6 March)
- Dick Ash
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Great Lakes Navigation Economics 101 (27 February)
- This webinar, presented by Roger Haberly (Regional Economist, Buffalo District) discussed the Great Lakes fleet and vessel types
and also provided an overview of inland navigation vessel operating costs.
- Inland Navigation Economics Webinar Series: Inland Navigation Economics 101 (20 February)
- Mark Hammond