Weather Service says it may furlough 5,000 employees

Flickr user Nick / KC7BF

The National Weather Service may furlough as many as 5,000 employees starting next month if the agency and Congress cannot agree on a plan to address a budget shortfall stemming from misallocation of funds at the agency.

NWS informed a labor union representing its employees that it was planning the furloughs for a total of 13 days in July and September, the Washington Post reported.

Last month, an investigation undertaken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Commerce Department leadership, in coordination with the department’s Office of Inspector General, found that Weather Service employees had reprogrammed funds without congressional notification as required by law. Agency chief Jack Hayes abruptly resigned after the investigation was made public. The agency also made a dozen other management changes.

Commerce officials stopped the unauthorized transfers of funds, but the agency was left with a $36 million budget deficit for this year. Unless Congress takes action, the Weather Service will not have enough money to cover its expenses.

NOAA and Commerce leaders have presented Congress with proposals to reprogram $26 million in the budget category of local warnings and forecasts and for an additional $9 million for radar stations. They also would create a better documented and more transparent budget process, an improved process for handling complaints departmentwide and better training for senior executives in appropriations reformulation.

A House appropriations panel is slated to take up a measure funding NOAA and the Weather Service on June 21.

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