Staff gathered Thursday, June 6, to celebrate the 19th birthday of Jacksonville District’s Interagency and International Services (IIS) program. Joining the celebration were two former employees who were instrumental to the program’s creation.
Richard Bonner, retired deputy for programs and project management and Jim Boone, retired chief of IIS, played key roles in the development of the IIS program.
Bonner, referred to as the district’s “grandfather of IIS,” said it is one of the few branches that has direct customers.
“These [customers] have an option and can choose whom they want to do business with. We’re a customer-oriented service,” he said.
Before it was known as IIS, the branch was called Support for Others. Its long history began in 1948 with the construction of the first launch pad for the nation’s early space program. Two engineers for the district’s Tampa office laid the concrete.
The Corps’ IIS program provides reimbursable technical services to other federal agencies as well as states, local units of government and international governments. The program’s objective is to identify and match Corps engineering and related services with the evolving needs of the American and international communities. In the age of government downsizing, many agencies need the capability to effectively accomplish engineering or construction support of their mission.
“This program is sometimes forgotten about,” said Mike Ornella, IIS branch chief. “Our small program operates on a limited budget of approximately $70 million out of an approximate $500 million district budget; however, we contribute 25 percent of the district’s full time equivalent.” A full time equivalent is an opening that an organization has available to hire a full-time person.
In comparison to the district’s more popular programs, IIS projects are small. Civil works projects can have a multi-million dollar price tag, whereas IIS projects generally range from a few hundred thousand to approximately $2 million.
“Even though a project may be a small one for us, it could be that [organization]’s only project and their only interface with the Corps,” Bonner said.
Jim Boone, who Ornella calls the “father of Jacksonville District’s IIS program,” said the Corps has supported the nation since President Washington’s era.
“When the Corps of Engineers was first created, we were the nation’s only engineers. After the Revolutionary War, the Corps was called upon to implement many national activities. Those activities included building and maintaining ports and harbors, water supply, infrastructure, whatever the nation needed,” Boone said. “When the nation needed insurmountable assistance, they called the Corps.”
IIS has integral roles in projects with the MiccosukeeTribe of Indians of Florida, Department of Defense Education Activity, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and locally with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and King’s Bay, among others.
The program also boasts that its Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) has the fourth largest inventory within the Corps. With more than 200 projects in Florida and Puerto Rico, approximately one-third of those projects are active, with a study or remediation in progress.
“Whatever the need of the nation is, you’re doing it. The fact we continue to exist is a tribute to everyone in this room,” said Boone.
“We have a chance to serve the nation and do the right things, “said David Hobbie, deputy for programs and project management.