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Washtington DCToday’s post features guest author Julie Minerva, a Civil Works Review Board veteran who has been engaging with the US Army Corps of Engineers at the federal level for the better part of 15 years.

As part of the Corps SMART Planning Process, all feasibility studies must complete a formal presentation process called a Civil Works Review Board. While the CWRB lasts only a few hours, the in DC preparation involved lasts several days. Here’s how to not only survive, but thrive:

1. Be prepared to visit history
You’ll answer more questions about issues that were resolved years ago then Hilary Clinton has had to answer about her private email server. Be patient.

2. Brush off your power point skills
With input from Corps Headquarters, power points will be redrafted, reworked and refined in the 48 hours leading up to the main event. The same thing applies for your talking points.

3. Bring snacks
Once you’re in the building, you’re “in the building” so come armed with snacks and water. The nearby Bed Bath & Beyond in Chinatown offers a nice selection of salty and sweet individual sized options.

4. Engage congressional stakeholders
Having a Member of Congress make opening remarks sets a positive tone and puts an emphasis on importance of your project. Likewise congressional staff attendance reflects the support of the member.

5. Have a back up printing option
Avoid unnecessary stress by identifying someone on deck for a last minute color print jobs. Key documents include “the placemat”, power point, and letters of support.

6. Practice your Oscar award speech
Brush off you inner theatre major and deliver your remarks with passion, urgency, excitement and confidence. Vocal warm ups, jumping jacks, and the Superwoman power pose all help.

7. Embrace that this milestone will bring more work
As the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished,” approval by the CWRB is not the end of the SMART planning process. Public review and comment follows before a signed Chief’s Report is within reach.

8. Get ready for your close up
You will rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again. After all, practice makes perfect. Behind the scenes it will be hectic and chaotic, but when the curtain rises it will all come together.

9. Don’t plan on seeing the monuments at night
You’ll be working. But honestly it’s worth it. Instead plan a post CWRB group outing to a local watering hole to celebrate your victory.

10. Don’t expect a cell signal
“Can you hear me now?” There are too many theories to count, but the fact remains that many of the internal rooms within the Corps HQ building are dead zones.

11. Do your homework
CWRB board members will be briefed by HQ in advance, but in the months leading up to the main event it is a good investment of your time and resources to brief them from your local perspective. The same is true for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army and the Office of Management and Budget.

12. Repeat after me: Build Strong Building Security
GAO runs a tight ship and you will need to be escorted at all times. That includes even trips to the first floor cafeteria. Also Corps staff traveling from district and division will not have the authority to serve as escorts. You will need an HQ contact.

Author Julie Minerva is a Civil Works Review Board veteran and has been engaging with the US Army Corps of Engineers at the federal level for the better part of 15 years. She credits her double major in Political Science & Dance for achieving strategic and effective results in the water and transportation infrastructure realm. You can find her at: