Washington, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting information related to the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama, as well as requesting a briefing with Department of Commerce employees who may have been involved in any directives to NOAA related to the September 6 statement. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has full legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the National Weather Service, in addition to other portions of NOAA.
“As the operational face of weather forecasting in the United States, the NWS protects countless lives and property every year through its accurate and timely forecasts, watches, and warnings,” said the Committee Chairwomen Johnson and Sherrill. “We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data.’ However, actions by you that were described in the New York Times article would, if accurate, be inconsistent with the values of scientific integrity.”
Additionally, Chairwoman Johnson sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy
Gustafson requesting a copy of the notification sent to NOAA staff of an
investigation into the statement issued by the Agency on September 6,
2019. The Office of the Inspector General promptly provided a response to the Chairwoman’s inquiry.
A copy of the full letter to Secretary Ross can be found here.
A copy of the full letter to Inspector General Gustafson can be found here.
This following is the original message Craig McLean, NOAA Research Assistant Administrator, sent to all NOAA Research employees on the morning of Monday, September 9th regarding Hurricane Dorian and its wide-ranging impacts.
The fierce storm we know as Hurricane Dorian has concluded its ferocious path through the Bahamas and along the U.S. East Coast. Many of you have contributed to the excellent science that has underpinned the forecasts and current understanding of storms such as this one, which accelerated quite rapidly in intensity. The storm also presented challenges in track which improved with enhanced observations.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2019 – Yesterday, the New York Times reported “Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”
Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) made the following statement.
“I am extremely disturbed by the directive that NOAA leadership sent on September 6, which threatens the integrity and public trust of weather forecasts at the peak of Hurricane season. I am even more distressed to learn that political interference from the Secretary of Commerce may be behind the directive. The Committee will pursue this issue and we expect full cooperation from the Department of Commerce in our efforts. I would remind Department employees of the whistleblower protections afforded them by law. Any employees with information are welcome to share anonymously via the Committee Whistleblower Page.”
The New York Timesreports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at NOAA unless they backed President Donald Trump’s claim that he was right when he tweeted about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama with worse damage than anticipated.
Meanwhile, NOAA’s top scientist is investigating whether the statement backing Trump’s claim violates the agency’s scientific integrity rules.
Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would be one of the states hit by the Category 5 storm. The warning was quickly contradicted by the National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Ala.