Weather Service Employees ‘Shocked’ by Reported Budget Cuts

Lack of say in discretionary spending means layoffs are likely, union says.

This story has been updated with a statement from a National Weather Service spokeswoman

Reports that the Trump White House budget office plans major cuts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have left employees “in the stages of grief, denial and little shocked,” a union leader told Government Executive.

“It’s not a well-thought-through idea, in my opinion,” said Daniel Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Though he speaks only for the relatively large weather service staff, the cuts discussed in the White House-to-agency “pass-back” documents will affect all of NOAA—“the people who make sure employees get paid, do the hiring and the paperwork, plus the satellite program, which has a direct link to weather forecasting,” he said. NWS is highly dependent on the rest of NOAA, he said.

NOAA overall is reportedly slated for a 17 percent cut, but NWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service would take a hit of just 5 percent. But that is still “hugely devastating,” Sobien said. That’s because the lack of say for managers in reshuffling discretionary spending means that “the only thing they can do is lay people off, so it’s just as bad as a 17 percent cut,” he said.

The Washington Post reported that the Office of Management and Budget outline was targeting research, grant and education programs related to climate change, with NOAA research slated to be trimmed by $126 million and the satellite division by $513 million.

Even under the Obama administration, the weather service was heading for cuts in its weather forecasting staff, according to a July 2016 document released in December by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. A Commerce Department deputy secretary and the NWS director were mulling a plan to avoid filling vacancies and downsize its network of 122 local forecasting offices to centralize operations. That would mean a typical office, operating around the clock with a staff of 25, would drop to 3-5 employees working “business hours,” according to PEER’s description.

“The rise in extreme weather events across the country argues for increasing rather than stripping local forecasting capacity,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “How can we be ‘Weather Ready’ if local forecasters work only business hours?”

A National Weather Service spokeswoman refuted PEER's interpretation of the agency's plans in a statement:

"We never considered or proposed to cut National Weather Service staff, close offices, avoid filling vacancies or centralize operations. We are evolving the National Weather Service to better fulfill our mission ​to protect life and property, and to build a Weather-Ready Nation. As part of this evolution, we have proposed seven changes to leverage technology to achieve consistency across forecast boundaries, break down barriers to enhance forecast collaboration, and to give our forecast staff more time to work closely with their local core partners -- to connect the dots between weather forecasts, impacts, and decisions on the ground to keep the public safe during extreme weather events. The need for this local decision support is growing, and we must evolve to keep pace with increasing demand.

​"As we evolve the agency, the public and our core partners will continue to get the excellent forecasts and services they have come to rely on from the National Weather Service."

Sobien has marshaled his union’s arguments for preserving the weather service’s capabilities. NWS forecasting of tornadoes and hurricanes saves lives, he said. Cutbacks will threaten the weather data collected and the models used by the agency as well as private-sector corporations. “Its impact directly will trickle down to the taxpayer and the consumer,” he said, giving the example of alerts to Florida citrus growers near his home. When temperature falls below freezing, “they have to save their crops,” which impacts insurance company payouts, truckers and shippers. “Economically, the cuts are a bad bargain.”

Sobien said NWS has always enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, “so hopefully we will be able to rally them. They understand that their constituents like the NWS.”   

He hasn’t heard of colleagues planning to quit or retire early. “They are used to being a political punching bag,” he said. “They will roll with it and hope they will end up okay at the end.”

Such plans from a new administration “can cause stress and anxiety, and are not good for morale,” Sobien said. “It affects people’s health and marriages. It is not fair. But these are very professional people, and they’re still out there working hard to serve the taxpayer.”

A spokesman for the Commerce Department, the parent agency to NOAA, declined comment on Wednesday.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.