Energy & Environment

Former NOAA heads criticize agency leaders, Trump over ‘political attacks’ against the agency


Four former administrators for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are objecting to what they call “political attacks” against the agency and criticizing the Trump administration and the agency leaders after controversy over the projected path of Hurricane Dorian.

Former agency heads Kathy Sullivan, Jane Lubchenco, Conrad Lautenbacher, and D. James Baker along with more than 200 former employees and scientists signed a letter voicing their support of science-minded employees at NOAA and its National Weather Service (NWS), writing that the White House made the “wrong choice” when it threw “the agency and its employees under the bus” after the recent controversy over whether Hurricane Dorian was predicted to hit the state of Alabama.

{mosads}The open letter addressed to Neil Jacobs, acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at NOAA, criticized the administration’s handling of a tweet by Birmingham, Ala., based NWS staff that said the storm was not supposed to hit Alabama. The tweet followed one from President Trump that had warned residents of the state they could be hit by the hurricane.

“Political leadership at NOAA also has choices. They can make sure that NWS has what it needs to do its job in the face of an imminent natural disaster, or they can just as easily throw the agency and its employees under the bus. In this case, both the White House and NOAA leadership made the wrong choice,” the letter wrote.

The letter also voiced concerns that NOAA leadership’s decision to discredit the Birmingham tweet through an unsigned letter in early September posed a threat to facts and science at the agency.

The National Weather Service’s ability to protect lives depends critically on the public’s confidence that the information it puts out is simply the very best that skilled experts applying the best science can offer, untainted by any personal or political agendas. The people who work at the National Weather Service deserve our collective thanks and support as they strive to keep us safe. Not gratuitous, petty, disingenuous attack,” the letter read.

Sullivan said there is “no room for politics” when it comes to the NWS.

“I am proud to stand with my former colleagues in affirming our commitment to working to protect career officials at NOAA from any undue political influence. I hope that a thorough investigation is conducted to learn what occurred during the Hurricane Dorian preparations, and that this unfortunate event serves as a warning to those who would attempt to manipulate scientific information coming out of this esteemed agency.”

The Department of Commerce’s Inspector General is investigating the unsigned letter sent by NOAA to staff criticizing the Birmingham tweet, as well as concerns over the politicization of the agency.

Various members of Congress have also called for additional investigations and inquiries into the events surrounding the tweets and the unsigned letter.

Tags Donald Trump Hurricane Dorian letter NOAA Science
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