NOAA Ends Hiring Freeze, Training Ban

Science and operations officer Christopher Buonanno monitors data on Hurricane Isaac at the National Weather Service Warning and Forecast Office in North Little Rock, Ark. Science and operations officer Christopher Buonanno monitors data on Hurricane Isaac at the National Weather Service Warning and Forecast Office in North Little Rock, Ark. Danny Johnston/AP File Photo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has lifted a hiring freeze in place since the onset of sequestration, the head of the agency announced Friday.

The announcement came one week after the National Weather Service Employees Organization questioned vacancies at the agency as “unnecessary and dangerous,” though NOAA chief Kathy Sullivan attributed the decision solely to increased funding from the fiscal 2014 appropriations bill.

“The omnibus gives us certainty about our spending authority for this fiscal year and restores some of the funds cut under sequestration,” Sullivan wrote in a letter to NOAA employees. “Sequestration in particular led federal agencies to make some very painful decisions.”

For NOAA, those decisions included not just a hiring freeze, but also a ban on non-mandatory training. Both training and hiring will resume, effective immediately, Sullivan said.

The agency previously had worked to end the hiring freeze and training ban, but it was unable to until the spending bill increased funding. The bill appropriated $5.3 billion to NOAA, a $310 million boost from its pre-sequestration fiscal 2013 base allotment.

NWSEO called on NOAA to end its hiring freeze last week, saying the agency had sufficient surplus funding -- $125 million -- to fill its 451 vacancies. The agency defended the freeze at the time, saying it did not have any excess funds, as the $125 million already had “specific appropriation intent” in fiscal 2014. A spokesman added NWS had not yet received its fiscal 2014 appropriations and was still operating at sequestration levels.

Sullivan noted in her letter she appreciated her employees’ hard work, despite the fiscal difficulties.

“As I’ve traveled the country and met with our employees and contractors over the past four months, I’ve heard from many of you how committed you are to completing your jobs effectively despite ongoing constraints,” Sullivan wrote. “I want to thank you again for your passion for and commitment to NOAA and the work we all do together.”

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