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Birnbaum to press: I fall on the sword, but don’t accept responsibility

Elizabeth Birnbaum the former Deputy Secretary of the MMS of the Dept of Interior today resigned according to Ken Salazaar “on her own terms, and by her own volition…” 

The talking point may be “a failed appointment by Obama”, or “Ms. Birnbaum was ‘too cozy’ with the industry she was appointed to regulate”…

Yes, I suppose we could go back and forth all day long regarding her failures in the role, and why it was appropriate that she resigned, or was fired, or resigned before she was fired…

Her boss (Ken Salazar) says:

“Elizabeth Birnbaum is a strong and effective person and leader. She helped break through tough issues including offshore renewable development and helped us take important steps to fix a broken system. She is a good public servant. She resigned today on her own terms and on her own volition. I thank her for her service and wish her the very best.”

She says:

“I’m grateful to the President and to the Secretary for allowing me to serve this Administration and the country. It’s been a great privilege to serve as Director of the MMS. I have enormous admiration for the men and women of the MMS who do a difficult job under challenging circumstances. I’m hopeful that the reforms that the Secretary and the Administration are undertaking will resolve the flaws in the current system that I inherited.”

And in her resignation letter she writes to Ken Salazar:

“As you move forward with the reorganization of Minerals Management Service you will be requiring three new leaders … I wish you every good fortune in the reorganization of the bureau.”

Here are my quesitons:

1. Strong and effective persons and leaders are needed during a crisis… so what kind of Strong and Effective person and leader leaves during a crisis?

2. ‘She is a good public servant’… what BOSS can say this about an individual that resigns during a crisis, and recommends to replace themself with 3 people and re-organize the entire dept?

So… I’m left wondering what exactly did she mean by “I’m hopeful that the reforms that the Secretary and the Administration are undertaking will resolve the flaws in the current system that I inherited.” {emphasis mine}

No… I don’t personally blame her for the event of the oil spill at Deepwater Horizon itself,… but I am trying to understand what the flaws in the CURRENT system of regulation for the oil industry that she INHERITED that she’s had nearly 11 months to work on as the appointee that oversees said system, would have ANYTHING to do with her resignation?

Conclusions:
1. Ken Salazar is incompetent in identifying qualities of leaders in his organization.
2. Falling on the sword for the Obama administration means failing not only with a lack of accountability, but also it means you don’t actually fall on the sword… rather you’re rewarded with resume recommendations.

On the contrary, I am in agreement with Ken Salazar. This indeed is “Strong and Effective” leadership… if your goal is to destroy an industry’s reputation, and force your Administration’s political friends to pay your Administration twice.

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