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The system apparently originates from Nathaniel Bowditch's 1802 American Practical Navigator book, The letter "Z" ("Zulu") indicates Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).The letters are typically used in conjunction with military time. in zone UTC−5 is written "0600R" and spoken "oh six hundred Romeo".The General Survey Act of 1824 authorized the use of Army engineers to survey road and canal routes. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers consisted only of officers and was used for mapping and the design and construction of federal civil works and other coastal fortifications and navigational routes.That same year, Congress passed an "Act to Improve the Navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers" and to remove sand bars on the Ohio and "planters, sawyers, or snags" (trees fixed in the riverbed) on the Mississippi, for which the Corps of Engineers was the responsible agency. It was merged with the Corps of Engineers on 31 March 1863, at which point the Corps of Engineers also assumed the Lakes Survey District mission for the Great Lakes. The survey, based in Detroit, Mich., was charged with conducting a hydrographical survey of the Northern and Northwestern Lakes and preparing and publishing nautical charts and other navigation aids.

Louis Lebègue Duportail, a lieutenant colonel in the French Royal Corps of Engineers, was secretly sent to America in March 1777 to serve in Washington's Continental Army.USACE has two directors who head up Military Programs and Civil Works, Director of Military Programs and Director of Civil Works. Corps of Engineers Research and Development (R&D) facilities help develop new methods and measures for deployment, force protection, terrain analysis, mapping, and other support.USACE directly supports the military in the battle zone, making expertise available to commanders to help solve or avoid engineering (and other) problems.In civilian projects, the Corps of Engineers became the lead federal flood control agency and significantly expanded its civil works activities, becoming among other things, a major provider of hydroelectric energy and the country's leading provider of recreation; its role in responding to natural disasters also grew dramatically.In the late 1960s, the agency became a leading environmental preservation and restoration agency.

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