Union Fights Back Against Republican Attempts To Centralize National Weather Service

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Senate Republican working to stop contract abuse while also centralizing the National Weather Service (NWS) are running into firm opposition from the NWS’s union, which claims the moves could cost jobs.

The main purpose of the National Weather Service Improvement Act is to modernizes the NWS and improve communications by moving resources from local offices to six regional centers. The bill also addresses problems of contract abuse, which has been reported throughout its parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The bill will require the NOAA to annually disclose information about full-time equivalent contractors and those who formerly worked at the agency as federal employees. Though committee staff argue the bill will not cause job loss, the NWS Employees Organization (NWSEO) is opposing the measure, claiming it will. The union has previously fought measures designed to consolidate forecast offices.

“Focusing the National Weather Service’s resources regionally would improve the public’s access to quality forecasting and reduce the danger of local staff being overwhelmed during severe weather outbreaks,” Republican Sen. John Thune said in a statement.

“Reforming an agency and increasing accountability will always be a challenge, but increasing public access to quality forecasting can save lives,” the statement continued.

“Likely, it would mean the elimination of over 1,000 meteorologists jobs,” Dan Sobien, president of the NWSEO, told The Washington Post. “It would take a decade for the field of meteorology to recover from a blow like that and those meteorologists to be absorbed back into the enterprise.”

Concerns of contract abuse have become so rampant that they have prompted an investigation by the Department of Commerce and an inquiry from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which Thune chairs. Agency officials have allegedly manipulated the contracting process to enrich themselves with lucrative retirement deals.

“The fact that senior agency officials approved this unseemly arrangement, which clearly warranted closer scrutiny, appears to be indicative of a potential agency-wide problem,” a committee letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan stated.

“In order to maintain the integrity of the agency, NOAA’s officials must avoid conflicts of interest and adhere to and enforce federal hiring and contracting rules,” the letter continued. “When transgressions occur, the agency must also hold the responsible officials accountable.”

The NWSEO did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.

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