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Trump Wants to Cut 355 National Weather Service Jobs Despite Record-Breaking Disasters in 2017

With weather and climate disasters becoming more destructive and costlier than ever, accurate and reliable weather forecasting is absolutely critical to protect life and property.

However, President Trump's 2019 White House budget proposes to cut National Weather Service (NWS) funding by about 8 percent, a decrease of just over $75 million. It also proposes a reduction of 355 positions, including 248 forecasting jobs.

Last year, the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each, according to a January report from the National Centers for Environmental Information. The total estimated cost was $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record.

The administration justifies the staff reductions based the 2016 Weather Service Operations and Workforce Analysis, which noted a "mismatch ... between workforce and workload" in some areas of the NWS and "that the current distribution of staff across the country can evolve."

But the National Weather Service Employees Organization, the agency's labor union, criticized the cuts.

"It's going to cost lives, it's going to cost the economy. Forecasts are going to be worse," Dan Sobien, union president, told Huntsville, Alabama-based news station WAFF.

Sobien added that NWS is already down more than 600 employees and further budget cuts would stretch the staff even thinner.

"The only way they're going to be able to do this is to close offices or at least close them for parts of the day. Offices like Huntsville might be closed at night," Sobien said. "These are the people that are issuing the tornado warnings, putting out the freeze forecasts and they're just not going to be there. They're not going to be there in offices like Huntsville in the middle of the night or some other key time. The forecasts are going to have to come from somewhere else and it's going to be people who are not familiar with the Huntsville area."

In October, the organization said the agency is "for the first time in its history teetering on the brink of failure."

Sabien told weather.com that inaccurate forecasting will "cost us all a whole lot more than $75 million."

"Literally, this (proposed budget) is risking all of our lives to save a few million dollars," he said.

As detailed by WAFF, here are the additional proposed cuts at the NWS:

  • A $15 million cut in the surface and marine observations program, which includes data points that provide information on ocean cycles such as El Nino.
  • An $11 million cut to the agency's tsunami warning program.
  • A $14 million cut to its science and technology integration activities, which would decrease investments in weather and water modeling and some supporting evaluation.