Col. James J. Handura assumed command of the US Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division in a ceremony held today at the Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito, Calif.
The ceremony was hosted by Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Handura assumed command from Col. Chad Caldwell, who currently serves as the Commander of the Sacramento District and has been serving as Acting Division Commander since August 30, 2023.
“Command of a division goes beyond accountability for projects, people, and money,” said Spellmon during the ceremony. “It’s about driving change, developing future leaders, and serving as guardians of the Corps’ reputation. COL Handura will serve as that guardian -- a leader who will develop solutions for the nation’s toughest challenges while taking care of people.”
A native of Clearwater, Florida, Handura graduated in 1996 from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee as a Distinguished Military Graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Geology, and a commission in the Engineer Regiment. He holds a Master of Science in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Missouri-Rolla, a Master’s degree in Military Art and Science – Theater Operations from the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, and a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He is also certified Project Management Professional.
Prior to South Pacific Division, Handura served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters in Washington, DC. Handura began his military service with the United States Navy Seabee Reserves, serving as a Utilitiesman from 1987 to 1989, at Bayboro Harbor, St. Petersburg, Florida. From 1989 to 1993, he served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted Combat Engineer, with the 82nd Engineer Battalion (Federal Republic of Germany) and the 20th Engineer Battalion (Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and later Ft. Hood, Texas).
Handura’s command assignments include Commander Sacramento District, USACE; Commander 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Deputy District Commander New Orleans District, USACE.
The South Pacific Division provides vital engineering solutions in collaboration with partners to secure the nation, energize the economy and reduce risk from disaster. South Pacific Division operates in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and in parts of Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Texas that includes 1,100 miles of coastline, 3.9 million acres of estuarine wetlands, 2,290 miles of federal levees and 46 dams and reservoirs.
As Commander of South Pacific Division, Handura oversees water resources, military construction, environmental stewardship and restoration and emergency management with a workforce of 2,500 civilians and military personnel in four districts across the 10 states.
The South Pacific Division wrapped up Fiscal Year 2023 with a record $2.3 billion in contracts awarded across its four districts.
“I am always amazed at the level of effort our division and district teams put forth on a daily basis, and these accomplishments are a natural consequence of their hard work and dedication,” said Col. Chad Caldwell, SPD' commander. “$2.3 billion in contract execution represents 2,346 contract actions, executed by hundreds of our team members throughout the fiscal year, and I could not be prouder of their achievements both individually and as a team.”
“Hitting $2.3 billion of total obligation is significant,” James Bartha, SPD’s region contracting chief. “SPD has averaged over the last 17 years $1.4 billion a year, when special mission dollars like FEMA Fire Debris Mission, and Border Wall Construction are removed from the total.”
Another contributing factor underlying the record year are SPD’s exceeding most of their small business goals, adds Bartha.
SPD was recognized recently by Headquarters U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Office of Small Business Programs as “Overall Highest in the Small Disadvantaged Business Award by Percentage” category for the third consecutive year.
The Small Business Program was not only a top contributor to the contracting dollars, but also reached their highest numbers on record going back at least 20 years, says Jack May, assistant director of SPD’s Office of Small Business Programs, with $1.3 billion being awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses.
“The record year for us in FY23 follows five years of unusual events,” he said. “In FY18, we had the Northern California Fires. In FY19 and FY20 we had the Border Barrier Years. In FY21 and FY22 we had the Covid Years. FY23 is probably the first year since FY17 that we didn’t experience events that changed our obligations and contracting practices significantly. So, all those factors played a role in our larger than normal obligations to Small Businesses and possibly an indication that we are closer to our normal business practices.”
The districts that comprise SPD also excelled this fiscal year across an array of categories with Albuquerque District, Los Angeles District, and San Francisco District being recognized in the “Executing Fifty or More Percent to Small Businesses” category; Albuquerque District winning both the “Overall Highest Percentage for Small Disadvantaged Businesses” and the “District with Highest Percentage of Small Business Set Asides” categories; and Sacramento District taking the “Overall Highest Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business by Dollars” by district category.
USACE as a whole has a long history of partnering with small business to execute their contracting dollars and works to maintain ties with existing businesses while looking for newly-minted businesses to partner with.
“USACE needs businesses, especially construction businesses to perform work in all our districts,” explains May.
“The more capable they are the better; the Corps vets them out carefully through its acquisition team to ensure that the small businesses can perform the work and have a proven history of doing good work. The Corps of Engineers won’t be successful without businesses both small and large capable to doing work for us all year round.
Brig. Gen. Antoinette Gant relinquished command of the US Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division to Col. Chad Caldwell.
The ceremony, hosted by the Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. William Graham, was held at the Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito, Calif.
Caldwell, who currently serves as the Commander of the Sacramento District, will serve as Acting Division Commander until Brig. Gen. Kirk Gibbs takes command later this fall.
Brig. Gen. Gant will move on to Chicago to lead the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, the corporate marketing office for the United States Army.
Graham lauded Gant for her tireless efforts during her time with the Corps. “Toni, our loss today is the Army’s gain of a lifetime, and I couldn’t be prouder of you and how you’ve represented the Army and Engineer branch,” Graham shared. “Not just here at SPD, but in Albuquerque, Louisville, our Border District in Phoenix, and throughout your entire stellar career.”
Gant reflected on her time South Pacific Division as one of rising to the occasion no matter the obstacle.
“There have been peaks and valleys but one thing that has never waivered is our steadfast joy as a division for the work we do,” Gant said. “The countless challenges that we turned into opportunities each time we were hit with an obstacle. I am very proud of the work we have done collectively and there is no other place I would have wanted to be.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division provides vital engineering solutions in collaboration with partners to secure the nation, energize the economy and reduce risk from disaster. South Pacific Division operates in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and in parts of Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Texas that includes 1,100 miles of coastline, 3.9 million acres of estuarine wetlands, 2,290 miles of federal levees and 46 dams and reservoirs. Most recently, South Pacific Division responded to the COVID-19 pandemic working with partner agencies to establish eight alternate care facilities across eight states.
As Acting Commander of South Pacific Division, Caldwell oversees water resources, military construction, environmental stewardship and restoration and emergency management with a workforce of 2,500 civilians and military personnel in four districts across the 10 states.
The South Pacific Division (SPD) is working to put a portion of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law monies to good use by supporting their regulatory program through training, development of programmatic tools, hiring of new Regional Technical Specialists (RTSs), and tribal nation outreach initiatives.
The funding also supports hiring of new staff to establish and maintain a Regional Technical Support and Execution Center (TREC) to support execution, increased agility, and consistency in program delivery, specifically for BIL projects. SPD is taking advantage of the flexibility they were offered when standing up their respective TREC.
“What this means for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the opportunity to develop the relationships, processes, and technology that will enable USACE Regulatory Program to continue to effectively deliver decisions that balance natural resource protection with the need for progress and economic growth,” says Tori White, SPD’s chief of Operations and Regulatory Division.
“Each USACE Division was given flexibility in establishing their TREC by USACE headquarters,” added White. “So, SPD hired a workload/program manager and team leader at the Division level to oversee the Center and lead a team of regulators in implementing and delivering BIL projects.”
White says SPD is unique in that it has leveraged its Regional Technical Specialists (RTS), or high-level subject matter experts within a district, to provide a minimum 25 percent support to the region. SPD also pulled its existing RTSs into the TREC to ensure agile “support center” staff to provide execution and technical expertise across region.
This support was also extended through the integration of their RTSs from the Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise - another distinctive SPD focus. The TNTCX provides a cost-effective administrative tool to improve USACE’s quality and effectiveness in delivering USACE missions and Federal Trust responsibilities to Federally recognized tribes.
“With 182 federally recognized Tribes in SPD’s AOR, having a dedicated Regional Regulatory Tribal Liaison is essential for SPD to meet its tribal trust responsibilities effectively and efficiently,” said White. “So, SPD pulled its a tribal liaison from the Albuquerque District Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise to support not only the TREC but the entire regional regulatory program.”
Mark Gilfillan, a senior tribal liaison with USACE SPD, sees the value and long-term benefits of this initiative by the division.
“Knowing that SPD covers an area of at least 10 states and 182 Tribal Nations, the tribal land areas within SPD AOR alone constitute more than 50% of all Indian Tribes within the contiguous 48 states;” said Gilfillan. “Therefore, throughout all of our SPD Missions and business line areas, there is a great need and an advantage to having a RTS for tribal actions and attention. The TNTCX is vital to the successful management of our relationships with Tribal Nations, which helps us maintain and operate key infrastructure projects that contribute to the Nation’s economy, environment, safety, and quality of life - now and in the future.”
Gilfillan also sees how the integration of the RTSs is critical to serving this often-unseen community and relishes in his opportunity to be part of this change.
“My favorite part is providing tools to meet the task, within the given timeframes, procedures, program limits, and work regimen, we all have today. However, as a tribal liaison, it is equally important to bring forward the tribal concerns and needs for consideration. Tribal communities are often some of the most deserving, but underserved areas of our Nation.”
The TNTCX is currently preparing a scope of work for SPD to address strategic tribal communications, outreach, and treaty rights including development of a GIS based tool for Regulators, adds White.
SPD is also developing an Environmental Justice Principles for the Regional Regulatory Program. Environmental Justice is the fair and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, national origin, or income regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks.
“These initiatives align with SPD commander’s priorities and the SPD vision for delivering bold solutions to serve and strengthen all communities,” said White.