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Senate Confirmation Hearing for Marcia McNutt to be USGS Director

Marcia McNutt.
Photo by Todd Walsh (c) MBARI.

8 October 2009, Washington, DC -- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today convened a confirmation hearing for Dr. Marcia McNutt to be Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Senators praised McNutt’s qualifications for the job and no opposition to her nomination was expressed at the hearing. President Obama announced his intention nominate McNutt as USGS Director on 9 July 2009.

McNutt is President and CEO of the Monterey Aquarium Research Institute. She previously served as the Griswold Professor of Geophysics at MIT. McNutt is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In her opening statement, McNutt provided six reasons why she is well qualified to serve as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. First, in a moment of extraordinary understatement, she described herself as a “good scientist.” She believes that science organizations should be led by scientists who know how to ask the right questions. Second, she is a strong leader as demonstrated by her service as president of the American Geophysical Union. Third, she is a seasoned administrator who has managed a research institution for 12 years. Fourth, she is familiar with the culture of the USGS because she worked for the agency early in her career. Fifth, she is a strong believer in team work; she cited her current organization’s success in building uncommon partnerships. Sixth, she has a commitment to public service. Regarding the last point, she said her father left college, waived a heart murmur, and lied about his age so he could join the U.S. Army during World War II. He became the youngest second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. She hopes to match her father’s commitment to public service.

McNutt responded to questions from Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Barrasso (R-Wy), and James Risch (R-Id.). She was introduced by Representative Sam Farr (D-Calif.) who lauded her role in improving our understanding the oceans in her capacity as President of the Monterey Aquarium Research Institution, which is located in his congressional district.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is expected to approve McNutt’s nomination and then send the matter to the full Senate.

Craig Schiffries,
Co-chair, USGS Coalition