Ocean Community News

Trump Proposes Slashing NOAA Budget

According to a report in the Washington Post, the Trump administration will propose slashing the 2018 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 17 percent, including steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs.

The proposed cuts would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.

NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which the Post reports would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.

The plan would reportedly terminate some leases, dispose some government property, and lay off some employees, but provide a 1.9 percent pay increase to remaining employees in January 2018.

NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.

While the numbers are preliminary, coming from part of the Office of Management and Budget’s so-called “passback” document, the numbers are still daunting.

The Post reports that the biggest single cut comes from NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which includes the National Centers for Environmental Information. Researchers there were behind a study suggesting that there has been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change — research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress.

Another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant, which supports coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. That includes institutions in many swing states that went for President Trump, such as the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Florida and North Carolina State University.

The OMB memo on these cuts specifically cited “rebuilding the military” as the trade-off for making these cuts.

Speaking to the Post, Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, said that 90 percent of the information for weather forecasts comes from satellites. “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” she said.

Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for NOAA, told the Post: “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”

He said that weather warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes could be compromised and that navigational capacity used to help guide commercial ships and other mariners would suffer, leaving them without the “improved forecasts they need to safely maneuver coastal waters.” It could become harder to warn of tsunamis and forecast weather that will cause power outages.

David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who served as NOAA’s chief operating officer in the Obama administration, told the Post that he the cuts to be at odds with the president’s stated commitment to building infrastructure.

“These cuts will impact good private-sector jobs in the U.S.,” Titley said. “The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to ‘make America great again.’”

Additional reading

White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency
Four ways NOAA benefits your life today
2016 NOAA Chief Scientist Annual Report
Matthew Garcia explains how NOAA makes a 1000:1 return on investment
The importance of being NOAA

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