President Joe Biden has selected former Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor as his nominee to be assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Pentagon official who oversees Army Corps of Engineers non-military programs. It is a key position for federal infrastructure and environmental policies.
Connor, whose selection the White House announced April 27, held the number-two position at Interior from 2014 to 2017 during the Obama administration.
Before that, he was commissioner of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, from 2009 to 2014. The White House announcement said at Reclamation, Connor "led efforts to integrate climate science and resilience actions into water resource management." It added that Connor "forged major Indian water rights settlements" and led Interior's negotiations on agreements with Mexico concerning the Colorado River.
Connor currently is a partner in law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.
He worked on Capitol Hill from 2001 to 2009, as counsel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Michael J. Walsh, a retired Army major general and former Corps of Engineers deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, said in an interview that Connor “has deep experience with water resource issues. He’ll bring that experience to the Army.”
Walsh, now a senior adviser at water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates, adds Connor also will be able to draw on his political experience, including his tenure at Reclamation.
Jim Walker, the American Association of Port Authorities' director of government relations, noted that Reclamation, which focuses primarily on the western U.S., has similar responsibilities to those of the Corps in areas such as flood protection, hydropower and water supply.
Walker told ENR via email, “Mr. Connor’s experience appears to be focused on western water law and water rights.”
Walker, also a former Corps civil works official, adds, “I had hoped that the [assistant secretary] nominee would have some navigation program experience, especially with navigation being nearly 50% of the Corps of Engineers civil works program.”