Update: Senator Harry Reid laments the loss of the “Cowboy Poetry Festival” due to federal budget cuts. Seems that there is indeed some fat to be cut from the proposed $3.7 trillion budget.
The National Weather Service Employees Organization needs your help to protect against the draconian budget cuts suggested by the House for the rest of FY11. From the Member News website:
(March 7, 2011) The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a proposed alternative to HR 1 that would make a $110 million reduction to NOAA operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, rather than the $454 reduction approved by the House. Of the $110 million cut, $104 million was from earmarks that are no longer funded. This effectively only cuts the NOAA ORF budget by $6 million.
The Senate Appropriations Committee justified the higher funding levels for NOAA stating in their March 4 press release, “The House cuts an additional $340 million which would threaten critical weather forecasts and warnings.”
The sample form letter to Boehner and Cantor follows:
Dear Mr. Speaker (for Speaker John Boehner) OR
Dear Mr. Cantor (for Rep. Eric Cantor)
I am writing to ask you to support the Senate’s proposal for NOAA’s budget. This proposal will help NOAA and the National Weather Service continue the mission of saving lives and property.
The Senate’s proposal includes responsible funding levels in stark contrast to the draconian cuts included in HR1. HR1 would have resulted in the following impacts on the National Weather Service:
- Reduced staffing at Weather Forecast Offices and River Forecast Centers would result in incomplete forecast production which could prove disastrous in a significant weather event. Even in the best of cases, it will still mean incomplete forecast production at WFOs that have major product workloads for aviation, marine, tropical and public services.
- This is going to have a negative impact on the economy and on almost every aspect of our daily lives. There will be a large scale economic impact on aviation, agriculture, and the cost shipping food and other products.
- Service backup of 24 Weather Forecasting Offices has never been tested and runs a very significant risk of a missed tornado, flood or severe weather warning. It is risking lives at the onset of both tornadoes and hurricane season. This is also doubling the area of responsibility for operations and adds the risk of degraded service delivery.
- The National Hurricane Center is not immune to these cuts as furloughs and staffing cuts will add strain to the program. The Hurricane Hunter Jet, which provides lifesaving data and helps determine a hurricane’s path, could also be eliminated.
- Information that is vital for weather modeling and accurate tornado watches and warnings will be reduced and in some cases lost. Reduced upper air observations currently made twice a day could be reduced to once every other day. Buoy and surface weather observations, the backbone of most of the weather and warning systems, may be temporarily or permanently discontinued.
Recent advances in aviation weather forecasting have resulted in as much as a 50 percent reduction in weather related flight delays. The Senate’s proposal for funding will help progressive programs such as these continue and may, in turn, prove beneficial to strengthening the economy.
For the safety of our citizens, the protection of property, and the large scale economic impact on aviation, agriculture, and commerce, I am asking you to vote in support the Senate’s proposal for NOAA’s budget.
Bill Hopkins, the NWS Employees Organization vice president predicts lives will be affected and lost because of the budget cuts. From KSAT12 ABC in San Antonio:
Bill Hopkins, vice president of the NWS Employees Organization, said the public may be in real danger a House bill is passed that would slash The National Weather Service’s budget by $126 million.”It could potentially lead to a loss of lives, not necessarily in San Antonio, but it could in other parts of the county,” Hopkins said.Local NWS offices would likely deal with rolling closures and furloughs, leaving the Corpus Christi NWS office to take over issuing warnings for the San Antonio area.”Not only will they be watching your area, but they will also be watching their area, and there will be no increase in personnel to do this,” Hopkins said.The national NWS office said President Obama has opposed to such harsh cuts. Hopkins said the cuts would significantly affect those along the Gulf Coast.”The National Hurricane Center would be reduced to 32 hours a week,” Hopkins said.There would also be far fewer hurricane hunter flights, which are often vital parts of hurricane forecasts.According to Hopkins, large amounts of weather data would be lost.”Can you imagine flying into an airport and they lose all their surface data? There’s really drastic impacts in this cut,” Hopkins said.