About Us


Dr. Mike Pfenning

WRC Director

Institute for Water Resources
Published Aug. 19, 2021

Dr. Mike Pfenning is the National Capitol Region Director and Deputy Director of the Institute for Water Resources in Alexandria, VA. In his role as Deputy Director of IWR, Dr. Pfenning also serves as the Director of the Water Resources Center.  As such, Dr. Pfenning oversees a multi-disciplinary Field Operating Agency which includes International Programs, Navigation, Flood Risk Management, Regulatory, and Natural Resources Management.  These programs support USACE’s Civil Works (water resources) missions through water resources planning, policy and decision-support model development, as well as training and national/international interface with academia, professional societies, and non-government organizations. 

Prior to becoming IWR Deputy Director, Mike was the Program Manager for Water Security at IWR while stationed at the USACE Europe District’s Central Area Office in Sembach, Germany. As IWR’s Program Manager supporting the North Atlantic Division’s (NAD’s) International Water Security Program in the Europe and Africa regions, he provided program management experience, leadership, and interagency collaboration in support of the water security programs of USACE’s key regional stakeholders. He also served as IWR’s Program Manager supporting the Pacific Ocean Division’s (POD’s) International Water Security Program in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. 

Mike previously served as the Program Development Branch Chief within the Civil Works (CW) Program Integration Division of USACE HQ.  His branch was responsible for developing, establishing, and prescribing both the annual CW budget guidance and the annual CW budget. He also led the annual defense before Congress of the results of the annual CW budget development process, and provided program-wide analysis and rationale for budget recommendations made to Corps senior leaders, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) (ASA(CW)), the Office of Management and Budget, and the Programs Community of Practice.

Prior to joining USACE as a DoD Civilian in September 2010, Mike retired from Active Duty with the US Army in May 2010. In his last assignment on Active Duty, he served in the Pentagon as the Executive Officer for the ASA(CW) from August 2008 to April 2010. Mike previously commanded the Gulf Region Division-North District in Northern Iraq from July 2007 to July 2008. Before this command, he served as the 61st District Engineer and Commander of the St. Paul District from June 2004 to June 2007. While serving as the St. Paul District Commander, he spent six months deployed to New Orleans as the Task Force Hope Operations Officer in leading response and recovery efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Born in Vermont, Mike was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers upon graduation from the United States Military Academy (USMA) in 1980. He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from USMA, as well as a master of science in Mineral Economics (1990) and a doctorate (1993) in Operations Research from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO.

His military education includes the U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools, the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, as well as the Command and General Staff College. Mike also served as the Military Fellow, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., while assigned as a student at the US Army War College.

Mike’s significant civilian and military awards and decorations include: the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award; the Army Distinguished Service Medal; the Army Bronze Star; the Army Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; the Army Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters; the Iraqi Campaign Medal; the Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster; the Silver de Fleury Medal; and the Humanitarian Service Medal. Mike is married to the former Sally Ciereszko. Mike and Sally have four children, Bryce Edwards, Elizabeth Pfenning, Brian Pfenning, and Benjamin Pfenning.