Just got off the phone with my long time USGS friend Walt Aucott in Lawrence, KS. I called him to ask what he knew of the new WaterSMART initiative within DOI. After finishing our discussion of WaterSMART, which was most informative to me, Walt asked me if I was reconciling all my issues with the USGS?
I knew instantly what he was referring to - my past Blog posts regarding the USGS involvement in the WICP and ACWI efforts (December 7, 2009 and January 5, 2010). As it turns out, someone in a USGS position above him called to ask about the posts and to decide if my federal "conspiracy" bent was something to be concerned about. There you have it - someone actually reads this stuff!
I explained to Walt that my posts were written fairly provocatively for a reason - to get folks thinking very clearly about the issue of a federal, scientific agency being involved in the actual framing of policy - especially when it's that very agency's job to collect the data needed to support that policy. If the USGS is NOT engaged in framing or influencing policy, the matter is closed. I just have not been able to discern this from the tracking I have done thus far in this specific process, and quite frankly I believe it's a valid question. I certainly do NOT believe every USGS employee is actively engaged in or advocating a secret, agency water policy, or that every USGS activity is policy-oriented. However, I'd like to make sure no one in the agency is doing so, and that none of their activites are policy-specific.
As a matter of fact, I have made my concerns known in writing to the participants of ACWI and WICP and have asked to be dropped from their process. The agency will either walk the data/policy line appropriately, or they won't. I'm glad to know they are aware of my questions, though.
I learned two things today. First, that if I ever have an issue with USGS I should call Walt Aucott and discuss it with him. He is a credible scientist and an all-around gentleman. He also shares my belief that the agency should NOT be advocating policy. Secondly, there is always someone watching you in and around the web. And this is how it should be.