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Leadership of Mega-Projects: The Construction of the Panama Canal Technical Lunch Meeting


Presenter: Major General, U. S. Army (retired) Merdith W. B. (Bo) Temple from Temple Enterprises, LLC

Topic: Leadership of Mega-Projects: The Construction of the Panama Canal – Technical Lunch Meeting

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Project and program managers face a number of challenges in today’s complex environment.  These include technical, financial, acquisition, political, and ensuring timely, cost effective solutions to today’s engineering problems.  To be successful project and program managers, engineers must learn a variety of skills from academia, from mentors, and from experience.  Only by this combination can engineers hope to become, as ASCE calls them, “master builders”.  By examining the experience of George Washington Goethals and the construction of one of the world’s greatest civil engineering achievements, the Panama Canal, we can learn valuable leadership insights that are applicable today and into the future.


General Temple retired from the Army on September 1, 2012 and currently resides in Richmond, VA where he consults as Temple Enterprises, LLC, and is affiliated with Dawson & Associates and Burdeshaw Associates. He also sits on four corporate boards. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is certified as a Project Management Professional.

General Temple served as the Acting Chief of Engineers and Acting Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), from June 2011 until his retirement in September 2012, while remaining the Corps’ Deputy. He oversaw $40(+) billion engineering and research program, and a global organization of over 30,000 employees, nine divisions, and the Engineer Research and Development Center.

Major General Temple’s previous assignment was the USACE Deputy Commanding General of Civil and Emergency Operations (DCG-CEO). As the Nation’s primary planner, designer, builder, and operator of flood control, navigation, environmental restoration, and multi-purpose water resource projects, he managed the Army’s $10 billion annual Civil Works Program. Additionally, he was responsible for the federal emergency flood fighting effort, recovery operations, and emergency engineering and public works support in response to natural or manmade disasters. As the DCG-CEO, Major General Temple served as the President of the U.S. Section of the International Navigation Association (PIANC), President of the Corps’ Coastal Engineering Research Board, and Executive Director of the Inland Waterways User Board.

Prior to serving as the DCG-CEO, Major General Temple was the USACE Deputy Commanding General of Military and International Operations, where he was responsible for policy, program, and technical functions in the execution of $40 billion of design, construction, and environmental programs for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies globally and in foreign countries.

Before his time at Corps Headquarters, Major General Temple served as Commander of the USACE North Atlantic Division in NYC. Other previous assignments include duty as the Theater Engineer (C7), Combined Joint Task Force Seven, Baghdad, Iraq and Commander of the Corps’ Transatlantic Programs Center in Winchester, Virginia. He also served as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations (G3), XVIII Airborne Corps and commanded both the 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat) (Airborne Corps) and the 307th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Major General Temple has also served as a Platoon Leader in the 44th Engineer Battalion, Korea and in the 548th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Heavy), Ft. Bragg; and served on the staff of U.S. Army Europe & 7th Army in Heidelberg, Germany. He commanded A/307th and later served on the 307th Engineer Battalion and 82d Airborne Division staffs in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. Major General Temple served at the NATO Headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, with the U.S. Army Personnel Command Center in Virginia, and as a Reserve Component advisor with the Readiness Group in Denver, Colorado.

Major General Temple, a Virginia native, was commissioned in the Engineer Branch in 1975. He earned a bachelors degree in civil engineering from the Virginia Military Institute and a masters degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. Major General Temple is a member and fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Major General Temple’s military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (two oak leaf clusters), the Bronze Star Medal (two oak leaf clusters), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Meritorious Service Medal (six oak leaf clusters), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (four oak leaf clusters), Army Superior Unit Award, the Army Staff Badge, and the Master Parachutist Badge. He is also a recipient of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Lifetime Achievement in Government and the Parcel-Sverdrup Leadership awards, the Army Engineer Association’s Gold deFleury medal, and is a National Academy of Construction member.