Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers: Who Is Todd Semonite?
Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite was named on May 19, 2016 to lead the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which is responsible for flood control in the United States and building projects for the Department of Defense.
Semonite is from Bellows Falls, Vermont, and graduated from Bellows Falls Union High School in 1975. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1979 with a B.S. in civil engineering. In 1988 he earned an M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Vermont and in 1991 an M.A. in military science from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Semonite has served as an engineer for most of his career. After being commissioned, he served with various USACE units in the United States and overseas, including a one-year deployment in Bosnia.
In 2004, Semonite was sent to Iraq and charged with restoring electricity to the country, whose infrastructure had been severely damaged in the fighting. He also worked to provide power on a fair basis, unlike former Iraqi Premier Saddam Hussein, who had favored Sunni Muslim areas when building power lines.
When he returned to the U.S., Semonite was given command of the Corps’ North Atlantic Division, which included New York. There, he was part of the team that worked to free the display aircraft carrier Intrepid from being stuck in the mud at its pier in New York City so it could be towed to New Jersey to be refitted. Following that assignment, Semonite was put in charge of the South Atlantic Division, responsible for USACE projects from Alabama to North Carolina, the Caribbean and Central and South America. After that, he served as Deputy Chief of Engineers.
Semonite was sent to Afghanistan in 2014 as commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command there. He was in charge of the effort to rebuild not infrastructure, but that country’s armed forces and police department. Semonite returned to the U.S. in 2015 to be director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, which was charged with recruiting and retaining top talent in the service. He held that post until being tapped to lead USACE.
Despite leading USACE just a short time, Semonite has already created some controversy. He went to a proposed flood control site in North Dakota and Minnesota, and subsequently a video of Semonite praising the project was posted on YouTube. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) took offense to the video, since his state hadn’t approved the permits for the project. Dayton called Semonite’s trip “a promotional tour.”
Semonite and his wife, Connie, have four adult children. One of them, Alex, served as an Army officer.
To Learn More:
Dayton Dismayed at Corps’ Disregard (by Frank Stanko, Wahpeton Daily News)
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