WH Budget Proposal: Cuts to the National Weather Service

Credit: NOAA
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By: Charles Roop | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 16, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The Trump Administration has proposed cutting money and jobs from the National Weather Service in the budget that was released Monday, according to The Washington Post.

The proposal plans a cut of around 6.5 percent - or about 75 million dollars - compared to the 2018 fiscal year for the NWS’ overall direct obligations. The cut is around 8 percent when compared to the 2017 enacted levels, according to the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The budget proposes a $15 million decrease in “workforce savings” by using recommendations from a workforce analysis published in 2017 The plan includes reducing the forecast personnel, and initiating reforms to increase staffing flexibility “to best match service demands with available resources,” according to the budget proposal. The savings would equate to cutting 355 forecasters and other operational staff, the NWSEO wrote.

"We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do – there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends,” Dan Sobien, President of the NWSEO, said in a press release.

The proposition does request an increase of $8 million to core responsibilities, which includes a 1.9 percent pay increase for employees, and covers increases in expenses (rent, utilities, communications, etc.). The White House also noted that it will include $878 million for NOAA’s polar weather satellites.

But cuts could also impact the Doppler radar network. The proposal outlines nearly a $16 million decrease in the Service Life Extension Program, a program in place to help upgrade the aging Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) system. The WCTV Pinpoint Weather and other meteorology teams do rely on the radar network for forecasting and analyzing storms that could be hazardous to people and property. There have been occasions - including once in 2017 - when multiple area radars have been down when severe weather is nearby.

But there are more proposed cuts. The plan listed reductions to the Tsunami Warning Program by $11 million by retaining a limited forecasting and warning role while eliminating support for preparedness education and outreach. In the science and tech front, cuts to investment in weather modeling - impacting the Next Generation Global Prediction System and the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program. It also reduces $4 million compared to last year for NOAA’s Research and Development High Performance Computing system.

There are also proposed cuts to climate research. The plan sets to completely eliminate competitively funded climate research.

“This will reduce NOAA’s funding for Cooperative Institutes, universities, NOAA laboratories, and other partners that advance understanding of the Earth’s climate system,” the proposal noted.

It also suggests ending the Project VORTEX Southeast program. The program, which has been more known for tornado research in the Midwest, has been studying tornadoes in the Southeast US since 2016. It also seeks to eliminate research and development for Airborne Phased Array Radar, which could be another tool for severe weather and hurricane research.

For now, it’s a laundry list of cuts with a few boosts that will have to make it through the US House and Senate before making its way back to the president’s desk for his signature.