AWRA Water Blog

The Aquadoc ‘Kiss of Death’: Dr. Robert M. Hirsch for USGS Director

Okay, you’re saying – what do I have against USGS water maven Dr. Bob Hirsch? After all, my failures (so far) to get Peter Gleick appointed White House Water Advisor, Pat Mulroy named U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner, and Gerry Galloway selected as Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works, are well-known.

I also wanted to see Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) as Secretary of State, but he is about to become a full-fledged Blago-boyich.

So I am extending my curse to Dr. Hirsch.

The current USGS Director, Dr. Mark Myers, just submitted his resignation, as is customary when a new administration takes the reins. He expressed an interest in staying as Director but has heard nothing. Dr. Suzette Kimball, Associate Director for Geology, is now the Acting Director.

So why Bob? If you’ve been reading my blog WaterWired, you know that I think very highly of him. I’ve posted about his “Big Four Water Issues” and more. There are few WaterWonks who know the Washington scene as well as Bob. I was disappointed to see him step down as USGS Associate Director for Water last spring, a post he held for 14 years. Here’s what I said then:

Bob has been an eloquent spokesman for USGS water programs lo these many years. He’s arguably the best-informed water scientist in the USA and the most astute observer of the “water scene”, especially from inside the Beltway (even though his office was in Reston, outside the Beltway).

In addition to knowing his way around DC, Bob has personally remained active “doing science”, no small task when you are an administrator of a government agency. He’s become an eloquent advocate for climate change research as related to water resources, something this country (and the world) must continue to address. He has also continued to speak out on the need for data, the lack of which will haunt us in the future.  

His scientific abilities are well-respected, so he’s not viewed as just another lifelong bureaucrat with no science chops. Although the USGS is a proud scientific agency, Bob understands the science-policy interface. And he calls them as he sees them.

He’s also a WaterWonk.

President-elect Obama may wish to appoint someone younger (Bob’s probably my age), avoiding another OWG [Old White Guy]. A USGS outsider might also be viewed more favorably, and that vantage point certainly has merit. But in terms of someone who knows the ropes, is smart and respected, I can’t think of a better person than Dr. Bob Hirsch.

Who’s your choice?

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” — Bill Cosby

[Disclosure notice: My institute receives about $93K annually from the USGS, just like the other 53 state water resources research institutes. The opinions expressed herein are mine alone.]

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