Rep. Harris Disappointed In NOAA Budget Priorities, Irritated at Lack of Documentation

Rep. Harris Disappointed In NOAA Budget Priorities, Irritated at Lack of Documentation

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee that oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),  expressed “extreme disappointment” that NOAA’s FY2013 budget request puts a priority on satellites and climate research.

At  Tuesday’s hearing of his Energy and Environment Subcommittee, he also chastised NOAA for failing to deliver the detailed budget justification documents that help explain the rationale behind such decisions in a timely manner.  “We’re simply unable to provide a complete assessment of the request,” he asserted, adding that a House Appropriations subcommittee had to cancel its hearing on NOAA last week for that reason.

The agency’s failure to provide the documents fuels a perception on Capitol Hill that “the Administration is not being a good steward of taxpayer money,” he continued.  Apologizing for the delay, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco explained that it was the result of lateness in finalizing the FY2012 spending plan, which affected the baseline of many programs. She promised to deliver the documents to the committee by March 14.

Harris chided the overall increase for NOAA, which would receive $5.1 billion under the President’s request, a 3.1 percent increase from FY2012, as inconsistent with budget reality. He further criticized the Administration for prioritizing its “political environmental agenda” ahead of core science needs, with climate research being a “big winner,” in addition to satellites, which account for over 40% of the total request. This emphasis, according to Harris, suggests that the Administration has prioritized understanding climate conditions “decades from now” over predicting weather conditions tomorrow, a misplaced proposal that “should be rejected by Congress.”

To correct the assumption that climate research would be useful only decades from now, Lubchenco explained in her testimony that understanding how the climate system works directly connects with helping people prepare for “what will happen in the months ahead, years ahead and decades ahead; all of those.”

Several Members of the subcommittee expressed concern over cuts to NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), which issues critical weather warnings and forecasts. Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) worried that “we are eating our seed corn” through cuts that may sacrifice services the public relies upon, such as weather forecasting.

Lubchenco explained that NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative – which covers data collection, modeling and forecasting, as well as the ability of communities to act in response to these messages – demonstrates that continuing and improving these capabilities remains critical to the agency’s mission. Furthermore, she said that the increase in satellite funding and the decrease in NWS, mostly in administrative efficiencies, is not a contradiction. The requested increase for satellites is due precisely to their importance because they provide 90 percent of the data that feeds into numerical models used by the NWS, she explained.

She emphasized the need to fully fund the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) not just this year but on a sustained basis to minimize the duration of the expected gap between operations of the recently launched Suomi NPP satellite and the launch of JPSS-1 in 2017. The Administration’s “aggressive” calls for sustained funding of the program stem from the fact that there are no “viable alternative options” to obtain equivalent data during the projected gap. “These satellites are too important to not be on the path to success,” she emphasized.


User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.