President Donald Trump has nominated AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to head up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Myers, an attorney by training, has led AccuWeather — based in State College, Pennsylvania — since 2007. This experience could prove useful if the US Senate confirms Myers as NOAA’s chief, given that the agency includes the US National Weather Service. But some scientists worry that Myers’ ties to AccuWeather could present conflicts of interest, and note that Myers has no direct experience with the agency’s broader research portfolio, which includes the climate, oceans and fisheries.
“I think the science community has real cause for concern,” says Andrew Rosenberg, head of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts….
Myers will probably advance efforts to bring commercial weather data into the national weather-forecasting system, says Bill Gail, chief technology officer for the Global Weather Corporation in Boulder, Colorado. Still, Gail says, Myers respects the importance of the public sector in such activities. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I think he could do a pretty good job,” adds Gail, the co-chair of a decadal survey of US Earth-science satellites being conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.
“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”
In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as: (more…)
Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.
The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.
NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.
The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.
Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.
NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).
The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.
“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to become the next NASA administrator has already run into trouble, with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressing concerns over appointing a politician to lead an agency that has enjoyed broad bipartisan support and has been mostly free of the sharp partisan divisions that have led to gridlock in Congress in recent years.
Some media reports have suggested that Rubio is angry at Bridenstine’s attacks upon him when he ran for president, a charge the Florida senator denies. Bridenstine first backed Ted Cruz’s bid, then switched to Donald Trump after Cruz dropped out of the race.
Or it could be the conservative Oklahoma Republican’s floor speeches, which include one in which he claimed President Barack Obama “dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead.” His opinion of Vice President Joe Biden was hardly better. “The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing,” Bridenstine said.
Did I mention Bridenstine is a strong Trump supporter? Let that sink in for a moment.
Aside from the concerns about partisanship, there is one other issue that could cause Senators to vote against Bridenstine when his nomination is considered later this year: climate change, also known as global warming.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected a proposal by the Trump Administration for a significant funding in a key NOAA weather satellite program.
Senate appropriators have provided $419 million for the Polar Follow-on (PFO) program for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018). The program is aimed on developing two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft to follow two already funded JPSS satellites. The JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled for launch later this year.
Engine for Growth: Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness
Aerospace Industries Association May 2017 [Full Report]
Policy Recommendations for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness
1. Level the Playing Field
Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed. (more…)
WASHINGTON, DC (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – Leaders on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology which exercise legislative jurisdiction in their respective chambers over the National Weather Service (NWS) today, issued the following statements on the announcement last night that President Donald Trump has signed into law H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017. The bill includes sweeping reforms to federal forecasting to improve seasonal forecasting, monitoring and clearly communicating information about extreme weather events, the availability of aircraft systems for hurricane tracking, and the use of commercial data that have been collectively called “the first major piece of weather legislation adopted since the early 1990s.”
The EPA says the climate science website has been taken down for retooling. There’s little doubt that when it returns, it will rewritten to conform with the Trump Administration’s political judgment that climate change is nothing to be concerned about rather than the scientific consensus that the threat is real, worsening and potentially catastrophic to the planet.
The position becomes increasing untenable as the data pile up. Critics point to uncertainties in the climate models, but those are not enough to negate the clear evidence that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands that we can’t avoid addressing indefinitely.
For those who may claim this story has nothing to do with space, you are wrong. NASA and NOAA are in the thick of the gathering meteorological and climate data the EPA and other agencies use to determine policy. The Trump Administration has proposed cancelling three NASA climate missions and deep cuts at NOAA.
It also highly likely that it is only a matter of time before NASA’s website is scrubbed of climate change information in the same way the EPA’s website is being rewritten.
WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR – The U.S House of Representatives today unanimously approved the Senate amendment to H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prioritize its research to improve weather data, modelling, computing, forecasting, and warnings. (more…)
The budgets of NASA and NOAA would see cuts for the FY 2017 fiscal year as part of $18 billion in reductions proposed by the Trump Administration.
NASA would see a reduction of $50 million in its science budget. The cuts would be “distributed….across the science program, including cuts to unused reserves and missions that are cancelled in the 2018 Budget. It is possible missions would be delayed and/or grants reduced,” according to a budget document sent to Congress.
If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.
“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”
The Trump Administration’s proposed Commerce Department budget maintains funding for the development of NOAA’s current generation geostationary and polar orbiting weather satellites. However, the follow-on polar orbiting program appears to be delayed.
“Achieves annual savings from NOAA’s Polar Follow On satellite program from the current program of record by better reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provides additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models,” the blueprint states.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected United Launch Services LLC (ULS) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Launch is currently targeted for 2021 on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Trump Administration and key Republican members of Congress have argued for a “re-balance” of NASA’s portfolio toward exploration. Let other agencies like NOAA conduct research into Earth science and global change.
However, it doesn’t appear Trump is remotely interested in giving NOAA the tools to even do that. In fact, he is proposing deep cuts in the agency.
The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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….
The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. 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.
The story explains that not only would NOAA be hobbled in conducting research, but that cutbacks would jeopardize public safety by limiting the agency’s ability to protect the country against severe weather.