Lawmakers back ousted hurricane center chief

Key Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed support this week for restoring an embattled National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official to the position he held before he was removed as head of the National Hurricane Center.

Reps. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, and Brad Miller, D-N.C., suggested in a Monday letter to a top NOAA administrator that Bill Proenza be reinstated in the position he held prior to arriving at the hurricane center. In the letter, Lampson and Miller said Proenza served "with great distinction" as southern regional director of the National Weather Service. That position is currently vacant.

The letter requested additional documents relating to Proenza's performance and the July performance assessment that resulted in his being suspended as center director just months after being asked to fill the position. The requested documents include any received from the White House.

A similar letter, sent to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, sought documents relating to the assessment, which was performed by a team of Commerce employees. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department.

The letters follow a July 19 joint hearing by two House Science and Technology subcommittees to determine if Proenza abused his position by speaking to reporters about the need for equipment upgrades at NOAA.

Proenza drew fire because he said on more than one occasion that the center's QuikSCAT satellite, which provides data necessary for predicting tropical storms and hurricanes, needed updating.

At the hearing, headed by Lampson as chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Miller as chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher characterized Proenza's QuikSCAT statements as "potentially detrimental in terms of public confidence in the center's forecasts."

At the same hearing, however, another NOAA director testified that the satellite was "well past its design life."

In the letters, Miller and Lampson praised Proenza's comments, saying they led NOAA to "begin the first real planning for the replacement of this satellite after years of concerns from NOAA staff." They also asked if Proenza was "put into an existing difficult situation without any support from his management."

Witnesses praised Proenza's performance at the National Weather Service. Don McKinnon, who spoke on behalf of the Mississippi Civil Defense/Emergency Management Association, said Proenza was "passionate" about his work and "took [emergency managers'] concerns to heart."

Robie Robinson, who represented the Emergency Managers' Association of Texas, said that "local emergency managers get the weather information we need thanks largely to the programs and leadership of Bill Proenza" and that "the improvements we experienced over the last 10 years would not have occurred without [Proenza's] leadership."

Proenza is on leave, and NOAA plans to reassign him to be training chief for the Silver Spring, Md.-based Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services. He has asked to resume his duties as hurricane center director, but Lampson and Miller did not endorse that request in their letter. A spokeswoman said she "could not comment" on the lawmakers' reasons.

NOAA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.