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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trump reportedly wants to slash NOAA's hurricane-tracking satellite funding

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 5:50 PM

click image PHOTO VIA NOAA
  • Photo via NOAA
Florida just experienced a hurricane a few months ago, a reminder that here in the Sunshine State, we depend on hurricane-tracking technology to keep us informed about these dangerous storms.

Now, it looks like this technology could be in danger of losing much of its funding.

According to a four-page budget memo received by The Washington Post, the Trump administration is planning to slash the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a government agency that uses satellites to track potential weather threats.

The proposal would slash NOAA's budget by 17 percent, eliminating funding for a variety of smaller programs like coastal management, estuary reserves and "coastal resilience," a program that seeks to improve the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.

The Office of Management and Budget asked the U.S. Commerce Department, which includes NOAA, to provide information about how much it would cost to lay off employees and outlined a proposal for the 2018 fiscal year that proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA.

If implemented, 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, pivotal in tracking the effects of climate change, would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service, which is based at Florida International University, would both receive smaller cuts, facing only 5 percent slashes in their budgets.

Another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant. The program supports coastal research conducted at 33 universities across the country, including the University of Florida.

The OMB memo said that the Commerce Department, like other agencies, should “buy and manage like a business," encouraging the department to invest in the use of privately owned satellites and commercial cloud services.

But many scientists warned that these cuts could drastically effect NOAA's ability to keep Americans safe from severe weather, compromising weather warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes, and hurting the navigational capacity of commercial ships relying on guided help.

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.”

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