Media Relations Archives

2010 - 2019

The goal of NWSEO Media Center is to assist you with your media needs and provide answers to questions you may have. Here you will find press releases, weather images, and an archive of NWSEO news articles. If you need to interview an expert source on national or local level or would like someone to talk to your group regarding weather, this is the place to find weather specialists.

NWSEO Headlines & News Stories 2014 - 2017

Press Releases and Media Coverage

December 25, 2017 America.EasyBranches.com Aberdeen, SD -
Weather doesn't take a holiday - nor does the National Weather Service

November 10, 2017 CBS17 WNCN Raleigh, NC - Government Weather Forecast Offices Dangerously Understaffed

October 27, 2017 MSNBC/The Rachel Maddow Show - The NWS Faces Cloudy Forecast

October 26, 2017 Washington Post - NWS Down Hundreds of Staff; Weather Service Teetering on the Brink of Failure

October 25, 2017 WUNC Public Radio - NWS Staffing Shortage Leaves Forecasters High and Dry

October 22, 2017 Burlington Free Press, Vermont - NWS Forecaster Shortage Risks Public Safety

October 21, 2017 News & Observer - Vermont Weather Service Workers Decry Staffing Shortage
and US News & World Report Vermont Staffing Shortage

October 17, 2017 FOX WICZ-TV NY - Binghamton NY Major Staffing Shortage

October 13, 2017 WKYW News Radio Philadelphia - NWS Workers Not Happy with New Leader

October 12, 2017 POLITICO - Trump's Pick for NOAA Chief Causes a Storm

September 27, 2017 Washington Post - Vital hurricane hunter plane has failed three times in past 8 days and has no backup

September 27, 2017 Palm Beach Post - Hurricane Hunter Pilots wear oxygen masks to land jet after 3rd malfunction.

September 27, 2017 CIRCA - The NWS Shortage of Meteorologists Amid a Busy Hurricane Season

September 26, 2017 Washington Post - Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's radar, a critical tool for forecasting.

September 18, 2017 StPetersBlog - NWS Employees ask Charlie Crist to Help Stop Personnel Cuts

September 12, 2017 CBS News - Staff Shortage Buffets the National Weather Service

September 9, 2017 Washington Post - I'm a Meteorologist. I'm staying behind in the Florida Keys to help save lives.

June 2, 2017 Washington Post - Report: National Weather Service meteorologists ‘fatigued’ and ‘demoralized’ by understaffing

June 2, 2017 WSB-TV Atlanta - Overworked employees, unfilled positions having huge impact on NWS

June 1, 2017 Hawaii News Now, Honolulu - Experts: Trump budget would drastically cut isle tsunami protections

May 30, 2017 Government Executive - Weather Service Staff Shortages Have Led to Burnout Among Employees

Officials at the Government Accountability Office reported this week that an extensive hiring backlog at the National Weather Service has led to burnout among meteorologists at the agency, who are frequently shifting schedules and working overtime.

May 16, 2017 - Tampa Bay News 10 - Changes Under the Radar for National Weather Service Field Offices - How National Weather Service Changes Could Affect You.

March 16, 2017 - VA 13 News Now Investigates: Changes Under the Radar

March 8, 2017 - Government Executive - Weather Service Employees ‘Shocked’ by Reported Budget Cuts

March 1, 2017 - CBS 47 - National Weather Service considers plan to cut back operating hours at Jacksonville Office

January 24, 2017 - NBC 6 Miami - Florida Sen. Nelson: Hiring Freeze Could Hurt Hurricane Response

January 23, 2017 Miami Herald - Nelson: Trump hiring freeze could hurt hurricane response in Florida, nation

 

Washington Post and Capital Hill Gang Reports

NWS Down Hundreds of Staff

Weather Service Teetering on the Brink of Failure

Full Story Online Also

After the onslaught of devastating hurricanes and wildfires, the United States is enduring one of its most costly years for extreme weather.  A near-record $16 billion weather disasters have ravaged the nation. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service workforce is spread razor thin, with hundreds of vacant forecast positions.

The National Weather Service Employees Organization, its labor union, said the lack of staff is taking a toll on forecasting operations and that the agency is “for the first time in its history teetering on the brink of failure.” Managers are being forced to scale back certain operations, and staff are stressed and overworked.

“It’s gotten so bad that we’re not going to be able to provide service that two years ago we were able to provide to public, emergency managers and media,” said Dan Sobien, the president of the union. “We’ve never been in that position before.”

As one example of an overburdened Weather Service office, the team of 15 forecasters serving the Washington and Baltimore region will be short five full-time staff heading into the winter months, according to Ray Martin, a union representative who works there. He said the office is short a senior forecaster, a general forecaster, two junior forecasters, and the lead for its weather observation program —  a position that has remained vacant for two years. Martin said staff morale is in the tank. “Some people have been denied vacations, because there are not enough bodies to fill shifts,” he said. “I, myself, worked a 15-hour day about a week ago. You get a lot less sleep. You start to wonder if you’re safe on the road. You don’t see your loved ones, which eats into family life.”

Martin added that the office is cutting shifts and that one afternoon and evening forecasting desk, charged with analyzing weather radar, won’t be staffed all winter long “because we just don’t have the bodies.” Forecasters staffing other desks will have to monitor radar by committee, in addition to their other responsibilities. Whether the cutbacks will affect the quality of forecasts and warnings, “I can’t say for certain,” Martin said. “You’re working people double shifts, some people aren’t getting days off, and you’re grinding people down. There is that potential [to affect the forecast quality]. The longer this goes on, the more the potential rises. It’s a long winter ahead.”

The Burlington Free-Press reported similar circumstances at the forecast office serving its region. “Given our staffing, our ability to fill our mission of protecting life and property would be nearly impossible if we had a big storm,” Brooke Taber, a Weather Service forecaster and union steward, told the paper.

Susan Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service, pushed back on any notion the organization is neglecting obligations to constituents and the health of its staff. “Let me state emphatically that we would never take an action that would jeopardize the services we provide to emergency managers and the public,” she said. “NWS is taking definitive steps to ensure the health and well-being of our employees through guidance to local managers on scheduling and flexibility.”

For the past five years, the union has loudly voiced concerns about staff vacancies and their consequences, even filing grievances. The Weather Service has faced different obstacles in trying to fill positions, including the 2013 budget sequester, related hiring freezes, and changes in administrations. In 2012, challenged to find funding to compensate its workers, it was embroiled in a “reprogramming” scandal, in which it moved around funds to cover payroll, without congressional approval.

“The NWS leadership has been incapable of placing their budget priorities correctly,” the union said in a news release this week. “In fact, the NWS nationwide has not had full staffing levels for at least seven years.”
A union fact sheet on the vacancy issues stressed “understaffing is not due to underfunding,” stating that Congress has fully funded the Weather Service since the 2013 fiscal year and that there have been “unspent carry-over funds” in the tens of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, those funds haven’t been earmarked for staffing, and the vacancy problem has worsened.

An independent report from the Government Accountability Office showed staff vacancies increased 57 percent from 2014 to 2016. The overall vacancy rate reached 11 percent or 455 positions at the end of 2016 up from just 5 percent (211 positions) at the end of 2010, the report said.

The union believes the number of vacancies is even higher, closer to 700.

Buchanan asserts the union is exaggerating the number of vacancies, which she said is closer to 226 or 5 percent. “The 700 vacancy figure cited by the union was based on an old organization table that does not reflect the agency’s current staffing profile,” she said.
But Sobien said that, unless the Weather Service cut several hundred jobs in the last seven years — without a mandate to do so, its numbers are misleading. “They’re just not filling positions and saying they don’t exist anymore,” he said. “They’re moving vacancies around the country and not filling them with new bodies. They’re playing a game with these numbers. I don’t even know if it’s legal.”
A senior official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees the National Weather Service, said the number of positions the agency can fill has necessarily decreased due to congressional appropriations. The official said the agency has not eliminated positions. While the “ceiling” for the total number of positions is 4,890 per the National Weather Service Table of Organization, the official said the number of positions is 4,453 people under the 2017 fiscal year appropriations act. “We believe this level is adequate to achieve National Weather Service core functions,” the official said.

In sum, the severity of the vacancy situation depends on whether it is based on the total number of positions in the legacy organizational table or the total number of positions for which Congress has provided funding. The union and the Government Accountability Office base their vacancy numbers on the organizational table, which leads to much higher total of unfilled positions compared with the Weather Service.

Buchanan stressed the Weather Service is aggressively moving to fill open slots. “We’re working with NOAA to prioritize NWS field hiring actions to address the most critical need and to streamline the security clearance process to expedite hiring,” she said. “We are also releasing a nationwide announcement for lead forecaster positions this week and are planning batch hires of meteorologist interns three times per year.”

The vacancy situation has not gone unnoticed by Congress. In its 2018 fiscal year budget markup for the Weather Service, the Senate Appropriations Committee wrote that the “extended vacancies are unacceptable — particularly when the Committee has provided more than adequate resources and direction to fill vacancies expeditiously for the past several years.”

It directed NOAA to fully account for all filled and open positions in its fiscal year 2018 spending plan. It acknowledged some Weather Service positions “may be redundant,” but instructed the Weather Service to develop justifications for eliminating any positions. “Until such time as a plan to eliminate those vacancies is approved, NWS is directed to continue to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible,” the committee budget markup said.

 

 

NEWS RELEASE

Staffing Shortage in Burlington, VT and
National Weather Service Forecast Offices Around the Country
Fatiguing, Demoralizing Weather Forecasters and Degrading Services

Trump Administration Cuts Positions

(October 10, 2017)

(Burlington, VT, October 10, 2017) - Direct operational impacts due to severe NWS staffing shortages have led to dire working conditions with no indication that efforts are being made to fill Weather Forecast Office (WFO) positions.  WFO Burlington, VT (BTV) is taking a stand sending letters to Senators, members of Congress and to the Director of NWS Eastern Region Headquarters reinforcing the negative impacts of vacancies in their local office.  By the end of October, WFO BTV will be down 46% of their operational staff, making protecting life and property, along with providing the best weather service possible to the citizens of the North Country impossible this upcoming winter season.

“Impacts of our staffing shortage have included forecasters working 8 to as many as 11 midnight shifts in a row, multiple forecasters pulling double shifts (and in some cases working back to back double shifts), and operating weekend day shifts with only two forecasters when Decision Support Service (DSS) activities are most frequent in our area of responsibility,” stated NWSEO BTV Steward Brooke Taber.  The decline in staffing and associated impacts have created an unsafe and unhealthy working conditions due to excessive overtime and abnormal shift schedules.

While the Burlington office is particularly hard hit, National Weather Service Offices around the country are suffering from the agency not filling vacant positions.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, “the quality of the NWS’s warning capability corresponds with its capacity to muster an ample, fully trained local staff at its Weather Forecast Offices as severe weather unfolds.” However, in May, the Government Accountability Office released a study that revealed that the vacancy rate in NWS operational units has reached a point where NWS employees are “unable at times to perform key tasks.”  The GAO also found that NWS “staff experienced stress, fatigue and reduced morale resulting from their efforts to cover for vacancies” due to lack of time off and a loss of training.

Attachments:
Vacancy Chart
GAO Report
WFO BTV Congressional Letter
WFO BTV ER Regional Letter

Contact:
Christy Fox
Director of Membership & Media Services
National Weather Service Employees Organization
(O) 202-907-3036
mediarelations@nwseo.org
www.nwseo.org

###

 

MONDAY: CRIST SPEAKING TO NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE EMPLOYEES

St. Petersburg, FL —  On Monday, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) will be the keynote speaker at the National Weather Service Employees Organization's annual convention. He will speak to the urgent need to keep this important agency fully staffed and funded, thanking employees for their critical work this hurricane season. Crist is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that oversees the National Weather Service.

Members of the media interested in covering the event are asked to email  Erin.Moffet@mail.house.gov.

Details:
WHO:         Congressman Charlie CristWHAT:       National Weather Service Employees Organization Annual Convention

WHEN:       Monday, September 18th at 10am

WHERE:    The Vinoy Hotel

501 5th Avenue NE

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

 ###

 

-NWSEO-

 

Northeast’s Busiest Airports Operate with Aviation Forecast Office Closures
Due to NWS Vacancies

CWSU Map- airspace covered by NWS Aviation Meteorologists

January 10, 2017 print copy

(January 10, 2017) The National Weather Service aviation offices that provide forecasts for New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.’s airspace were closed during busy daytime travel over the holidays, jeopardizing the safety of the flying public. The closures continue as four aviation forecast offices continue to juggle shifts, doubling the size of airspace they watch as they substitute for each other due to severe staffing shortages.

NWS Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) are aviation forecast offices embedded at each of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers. NWS aviation meteorologists at the CWSUs prepare specialized airspace forecasts, watches, and warnings for air traffic and safety. They communicate these forecasts directly to FAA air traffic control managers. These face-to-face, on-the-spot briefings are vital to helping air traffic controllers safely and efficiently route traffic, especially during thunderstorms, snow, and conditions that cause icing on aircrafts’ wings.

Four aviation meteorologists are assigned to each CWSU, to cover operations 16 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Due to the a staffing shortage and NWS hiring slowdown, only two of these four “Emergency Essential” aviation meteorologist positions are filled at the New York CWSU. As a result of this 50 percent vacancy rate, the New York CWSU closed the entire unit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on December 25, 2016; the unit was also closed for four to eight hour shifts on Dec. 23, 24, and the first week of January. During this time, the aviation meteorologist responsible for covering Washington DC and surrounding areas had to double his watch to include forecasting the airspace for both New York south to the Caribbean over the Atlantic. The Washington D.C. CWSU is dealing with its own staffing shortage, operating with only three aviation meteorologists. Shortages in both New York and Washington D. C. means air traffic controllers are also relying on the Cleveland CWSU to expand their forecasts to cover for shifts that are closed along the east coast.

The airports served by the New York CWSU and Washington D.C. CWSU include: John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, Long Island MacArthur, Newark Liberty International, Philadelphia International, Washington Dulles International, Ronald Reagan National, Baltimore Washington International, and smaller airports. The CWSUs also provide aviation forecasts for military airspace. Aviation meteorologist are so vital to public safety that the positions are “Emergency Essential” and must show up for work in an emergency situation, severe weather or a work furlough.

“The NWS is putting the flying public at risk by keeping these positions vacant,” said NWSEO Executive Vice President Bill Hopkins. “They are asking one person to take on the responsibility for the airspace of two major regions of the country. The degradation of service is threatening the flying public. There are no plans for an emergency. Who are they going to call for back-up when they’ve made operating on back-up the norm?”

Air traffic controllers in New York share these concerns. In November, a New York air traffic control manager wrote to Kevin Johnson, the FAA’s Chief Meteorologist in Washington DC:

“Having less than 4 mets at ZNY CWSU to me is not acceptable but going to 2 is out of the question and unsafe.  With the vast amount of airspace we operate in, including a large portion of the Atlantic Ocean we need that weather information from the mets. This is a safety matter to me…"

The National Weather Service is experiencing a staffing crisis nationwide with a 16 percent vacancy rate.  In 2016, a very successful program designed to increase air travel safety and efficiency was eliminated in Chicago due to staffing shortages; the Government Accountability Office is investigating the NWS staffing levels at the request of Congress.

-NWSEO-

 

December 30, 2016 - Palm Beach Post
Weather Service employees fear hiring freeze, tout jobs as life-savers

December 9, 2016 - Washington Post

Weather Service employees to the Hill: Save us from Trump’s ‘hiring freeze’

December 9, 2016 - Tampa Bay Times

Weather service dismisses union concerns about possible cuts in service

December 8, 2016

News Release from PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

Stealth Weather Service Forecasting Downsize
Far Fewer Local Weather Forecasters Limited to Working “Business Hours”

 

 

News Stories on NWS plans to Move away from Local Forecasts –
Move to Part Time Offices

October 27, 2016 NBC KXAN Austin, Texas - National Weather Service Blasted for Moving away from Local Forecasts

October 27, 2016 KYUK Yokon, Alaska - NWS Announces changes their services near future

October 23, 2016 Palm Beach Post, Florida - Weather Service says increase in severe events is forcing changes

 

NWS Presentation to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce in July 2016 details Plans to Downsize the NWS

July 2016 NWS PowerPoint presentation to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce

December 5, 2016 print copy

(December 5, 2016) NWS Director Dr. Uccellini and Deputy Director Laura Furgione provided specific details on downsizing weather forecast offices and moving many offices to part-time operations in a PowerPoint presentation to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce in July 2016. Please note that this presentation was made two months prior to the September 28 and 29 All Hands OWA call to employees.

In the presentation, please note of Slides 23 and 25:
Slide 23 - IDSS and Warning and Staff Workload - Office size by location - only 40 of the 122 NWS Weather Forecast Offices will retain responsibility for issuing warnings of severe weather.

Slide 25 - Office size by range by locations with responsibilities

Please review the entire presentation. Here are a few more highlights from the presentation:

Slide 3 – “Stall tactics on CBA Renegotiation continue from NWSEO” – The only times negotiations were stalled were the three times the NWS declared impasse and refused to bargain.

Slide 6 - Documents that the NWS has been losing far more staff every year than they are backfilling.

Slide 9. - “Many field and HQ vacancies, critical to the successor Evolve, remain unfilled, increasing risk and overtaxing workforce as they attempt to fill critical gaps.”

Slide 15 – “Local staff operate business hours to match their partners” instead of the current 24/7/365 model”
As always, we appreciate your support of NWSEO. Membership is the strength of our professional organization.

-NWSEO-

 

News Release

National Weather Service Discloses Plans to Move away from Local Forecasts –
Move to Part Time Offices

(October 21, 2016) Instead of filling more than 600 vacancies, the National Weather Service announces plans to eliminate the work of local forecasters and distribute forecasts and guidance produced by a Washington D.C. Center. Local forecasts, prepared with the expertise of local meteorologists, will give way automated forecasts based largely on computer models.  The plan will lead to a degradation of service with local weather forecast office hours reduced from the current 24/7/365 schedule to part-time and in some cases, possibly seasonal operations.

The expertise of local forecasters is critical to the National Weather Service's mission of saving lives. Each geographic region has its own unique weather patterns. Local forecasters understand these patterns and apply this knowledge to the computer models. Their intimate knowledge of these weather patterns, the geographic region, the flood prone areas, and the demographics of people whose lives they protect are critical to their lifesaving work.

The NWS’s new plans would change the role of the local meteorologist from using their expertise and knowledge of local weather patterns to a "weather briefer" who is no longer responsible for the forecast, but instead disseminates information from the Washington Center. The plan also mentions the use of flexible staffing that could include migrant meteorologists who travel to locations based on severe weather needs; a position that negates the value of local expertise, knowledge of unique local weather patterns, and familiarity with the geographic location and flood prone areas.

One of the most critical problems of relying on national center forecasts is the disconnect that would develop between the largely centralized “forecast” and the local weather patterns, cultural, and geographical information that local forecasters provide. Forecasters would be routinely placed in a compromising position of having to choose between a briefing based on an official/centralized forecast with which they disagreed, or briefing based on their own judgment informed by extensive local knowledge. It is the National Weather Service Employees Organization’s stand that the ownership of the forecast must be at the final point of delivery.

“When severe weather hits your area, do you want the information coming from someone who lives and works in the community, who understands the unique weather patterns, who has the historical knowledge of how weather impacts the area and flood zones because they work with this data everyday – or would you want your information from a Washington D.C. bureaucracy or even a traveling forecaster shipped in, someone who is learning about the patterns as they commute to your location?” asked NWSEO President Dan Sobien.

Weather Experts agree that ownership of the forecast must be at the final point of delivery. The NWS’s new ideas are a far contrast from the NWS Modernization in 2000 which stressed the work of local forecasters; the ideas are against the National Academy of Public Administration’s recommendations to Congress in 2013, and conflict with the research from the 2012 National Research Council’s report, “Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None” (National Academies Press, 2012) stating, “local knowledge of phenomena, terrain, and infrastructure is an important factor in forecasting, and it needs to be accounted for in any potential regionalization of functions.”

The National Weather Service Employees Organization has provided a clear vision of how the NWS should evolve to meet the ever-expanding need for local, regional, and national forecasting, as well as the support services for NWS partners such as emergency managers, local and state government.  NWSEO’s vision stresses that the NWS must ensure that the provision of accurate, timely, and locally-focused weather forecasts and warnings are maintained at the current high level. These experts know and understand unique local forecasting challenges and the impacts those challenges may have on the safety and lives of people residing in their local communities.

“Removing the local forecaster out of this equation, diminishes the greatest factor in the success of the NWS’s lifesaving mission, which is direct service to the taxpayers in the communities in where they live,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien. “Unfortunately, nature never does what a computer model wants it to do. The centralized forecast plan is putting lives at risk.”
-NWSEO-

 

Contact: Dan Sobien
NWSEO President
202-420-1043
president@nwseo.org
www.nwseo.org

 

 

July 14, 2016 NBC 5 Dallas - Computer Outage Disrupts National Weather Service Offices Nationwide Scott Gordon reporting for NBC 5 Dallas

A massive nationwide computer outage on Wednesday prevented the National Weather Service from distributing important warnings and other basic information to pilots, boaters, and the public

 

July 13, 2016 - Washington Post - Weather Service suffers "major network issue," warning system compromised.

Full story here.

"It appears the entire NWS is dead in the water,” said Dan Sobien, president of the Weather Service’s labor union. “I don’t know if anything is getting out.” Sobien said the outage prevented standard dissemination of at least two severe thunderstorm warnings in the central United States and a flood warning in the Midwest.

Congresswoman Gwen Graham visits the Tallahassee Weather Forecast Office to Highlight the beginning of 2016 Hurricane Season

June 1, 2016:

WFSU - Rep. Gwen Graham Pushes Hurricane Preparedness At National Weather Service

WCTV CBS -  Hurricane Season - Graham visits National Weather Service Tallahassee

 

 

Weather-related Flight Delays to Increase due to Job Cuts at NWS Chicago

Performance Measurements and Testimonials

NOAA’s touts the benefits of Golden Triangle Initiative in 2010

February 12, 2016: Chicago Tribune: Meteorologists union warns of more flight delays in Chicago because of cutbacks

February 9, 2016: Federal Soup Union: Just a few job cuts will harm Chicago air traffic

News Release

Weather-related Flight Delays to Increase due to Job Cuts at NWS Chicago

(February 8, 2016) Understaffing at the Chicago National Weather Service office is poised to slow down national air travel. Chicago airports are the first to see the effects of National Weather Service’s decision to eliminate aviation meteorologists who are dedicated to provide weather forecasts and alerts for O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport, and to the FAA in managing flights in and out of the Chicago area.

Aviation meteorologists, who work at the Chicago Area Forecast Office in Romeoville, Illinois, have been credited by the National Weather Service for cutting in half the number of weather related air traffic delays in the Chicago area since the program started in 2010. The NWS started the “Golden Triangle Initiative” aviation-weather project dedicated to air travel in Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta to enhance safety and better serve the flying public nationwide. The three aviation meteorologists in Chicago work a rotating shift to alert airports and the FAA of weather changes that have the potential to interrupt aviation operations. This project is credited for an immediate reduction of weather related air traffic delays in the Chicago area by more than 50 percent. Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City were selected for this initiative because they have a huge national airspace. Weather delays at these hub airports will cause a lag in flights nationwide.

“I am deeply troubled by the NWS’s recent short-sighted actions regarding aviation meteorologists,” stated Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3).  “As the most senior member from Illinois on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and a member of the Aviation subcommittee, my top priority has been and always will be the public’s safety.  It has been proven that these employees are essential personnel, improving safety and overall efficiency.

“By abolishing this essential initiative, the National Weather Service is regressing in its service to the traveling public and flight safety,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien. “The cost savings and improved travel times, directly related to aviation forecasters at these airports is well documented.”

The National Weather Service is understaffed nationwide, with a vacancy rate of 16 percent. Most of the vacant positions are identified as “emergency essential” meaning the employee must show up for work, even in severe weather or emergency situation. Instead of filling these “emergency essential” positions, NWS management is doubling up on duties or eliminating key projects such as the Golden Triangle. In Chicago, the three aviation forecaster positions are now being used to fill two forecaster vacancies. This means that the aviation forecasters will have to abandon their work with the airports and with the FAA in order to concentrate on weather forecasting duties for the city of Chicago and the surrounding areas.

Initial forecasting statistics since the elimination of the program in late January 2016 show the accuracy of IFR forecasts (ceiling and visibility) has already fallen 20 percent and the IFR “false alarm rate” (predicting something that does not occur) has risen 22 percent.

“Every year since 2010, the Chicago aviation meteorologists have been recognized for surpassing national goals in forecasting for air travel. Just last year, we were recognized as the best in the nation for our timing of forecasting critically low clouds and visibility,” said Gino Izzi, the NWSEO Steward in Chicago/Romeoville Weather Forecast Office. “The degradation of service for the cost of two employees is insane, particularly in light of the huge successes of the Golden Triangle Initiative so far.”

-NWSEO-

Contact: Lisa Luciani
Director of Communications/Media Relations
National Weather Service Employees Organization
Phone: 202-907-3036
mediarelations@nwseo.org

 

Palm Beach Post: VIDEO: National Weather Service understaffed as dangerous weather continues

 

Palm Beach Post Reporter Kimberly Miller reports on the high number of vacancies at NWS forecast offices.
Weather Service Vacancies Concern During Severe Weather (Florida, January 24, 2016)

 

NBC5 Investigates: Staff Shortage Left NWS Scrambling To Cover Tornado Outbreak

(December 28, 2015) Our hearts and prayers go out to the families hurt by the North Texas tornadoes. For our Dallas/Ft. Worth NWS team, this is their home and their neighbors who are being impacted.

The emotional toll is further compounded because the staffing shortages in the National Weather Service. Twenty-five percent of forecaster positions are vacant at the Dallas/Ft.Worth office. Behind the scenes of their lifesaving work, NWS meteorologists are working around the clock, often on overtime with little rest, doing their regular work as well as the work of the vacant position.

NBC 5 Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman filed this report on Sunday: NBC5 Investigates: Staff Shortage Left NWS Scrambling To Cover Tornado Outbreak

 

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, October 8, 2015
Contact:  Bill Hopkins [NWSEO Executive Vice President] (202) 420-1045;
Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337

 National Weather Service Employees Tethered by Illegal Gag Orders

Special Counsel Asked to Reverse Recent Raft of Blanket Nondisclosure Policies

News Release print copy 

Generated News Articles

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 2015: Weather Service Union Blasts "Gag Orders"

Government Executive, October 9, 2015: Weather Service Staffers Protest "Gag Orders" on Workforce Planning

All Gov – Everything Our Government Really Does, October 20, 2015: National Weather Service Leadership Clashing with its Employees about Non-Disclosure

(October 8, 2015) Washington, DC — National Weather Service employees face growing restrictions on their ability to disclose information about the inner workings of their agency, according to a complaint filed today by the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  They contend these gag orders are illegal and are pressing U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner to lift these nondisclosure policies and take action against responsible officials.

A key provision of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 curbed the use of blanket nondisclosure policies or agreements, otherwise known as “gag orders,” implemented by federal agencies. The act lays out specific exceptions which must be included as a part of any such confidentiality directive.

“The National Weather Service knows it’s unethical for union representatives to keep critical information from the employees they represent. By the very nature of a union, we are bound to communicate with our members and include their input on decisions affecting their jobs,” said NWSEO Executive Vice President Bill Hopkins. “As a taxpayer, I find it highly disturbing that a government agency continues to push gag orders to hide how they operate. This is the work of the American government, owned by the American public, and should be open to the American public.”

The complaint cites three gag orders issued in recent weeks by the National Weather Service and its parent agencies, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce. These orders forbid disclosure of information arising out of:

  • Organizational planning.  This confidentiality order forbids disclosure of anything about the Weather Service Organization Workforce Analysis, which has the effect of muzzling any revelations about agency planning and the rationale for planned actions;
  • Grievance settlements. In July, the Commerce General Counsel instituted a policy that any settlement of grievances must include a nondisclosure clause. While it has an exception for “whistleblower cases” that exception comes nowhere close to meeting requirements of the WPEA and would block release of grievances involving actions by agency managers which constitute violations of law or regulation, waste of funds, mismanagement or abuse of authority; and
  • Collective Bargaining. The National Weather Service has just added a confidentiality clause to its ground rules for Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations which requires that all information about the CBA bargaining process must be held “confidential.”

“The National Weather Service is about the last place where national security-style secrecy rules need to be enforced,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the broad scope of the gag orders put much of what goes on inside the agency under wraps. “Everyone is free to talk about the weather except for the people working inside the National Weather Service. Go figure.”
Imposition of a nondisclosure policy or order not meeting WPEA requirements is classified as a “prohibited personnel practice” contravening fundamental tenets of the federal merit system. The Office of Special Counsel has enforcement powers to abate such violations, including seeking disciplinary action against officials who commit them.

Read the complaint
http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/noaa/10_8_15_NWS_gag_complaint.pdf  

View Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act anti-gag language
http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/noaa/10_8_15_WPEA_anti-gag_language.pdf

See Organization Workforce Analysis nondisclosure agreement
http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/noaa/10_8_15_Org_Workforce_Analysis_gag.pdf

Learn about grievance gag policy
http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/noaa/10_8_15_Grievance_Gag_Order.pdf

Examine Collective Bargaining confidentiality provision
http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/noaa/10_8%2015_Collective_Bargaining_gag.pdf
-NWSEO-

The Most Dire Forecast Ever Issued Slate - August 28, 2015

From the article:

"Ten years ago this morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks faced a dilemma. As the forecast coordinator that day for the Slidell, Louisiana, office—which has responsibility for New Orleans—he needed to find a way to convey the urgency and seriousness of the situation his region would face the next day as Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Here is what he came up with:" (More)

June 24, 2015: NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth: Reporter Scott Friedman investigates NWS Staffing Levels
Former National Weather Service Official says Low Staffing at Forecasting Offices creates Risky Situation.

Here is the report that aired in May:

May 14, 2015 NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth - Scott Friedman Investigative Report

National Weather Service Office in Forth Worth Understaffed this Storm Season

And in May 2014

NBC TODAY Show, Friday, May 9
Concerns Grow over Weather Service staff shortage

NWSEO Opposes Sen. Thune’s Bill to Consolidate 122 Local Weather Forecast Offices to Six Regional Centers

Print copy of June 18 news release

Related News Articles

Statement from John "Rusty" Russell, President of the
U.S. Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM-USA)

(June 18, 2015) NWSEO strongly opposes the consolidation of community weather forecast offices to create six regional weather offices proposed in Senator Thune’s (R-SD) bill on Tuesday.  The bill, S. 1573, discounts the impact of local forecasters who have knowledge of their area, the unique weather patterns that exist there, and the impact of severe weather. It is also in direct conflict to the National Weather Service’s Weather Ready Nation initiative which calls for more interaction with local life-saving emergency managers and first responders.

“Regionalizing weather forecast offices will forever put to rest the idea of the life-saving plans in Weather Ready Nation,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien.  “The expertise and collaboration of the local meteorologists and first responders is critical during severe weather events. As part of Weather Ready Nation, your NWS meteorologists work and train with local emergency managers to prepare for weather emergencies. You won’t have that face-to-face collaboration with only six regional weather forecast offices nationally.”

Existing science indicates that regionalized forecasting will result in a degradation of the accuracy and reliability of the forecasts. Repeated studies of the NWS structure conclude there’s a direct correlation between the accuracy of weather forecasts and services to a community and the proximity from which they’re provided. In 2005, Congress rejected proposals to consolidate forecasting operations because the NWS lacked the metrics to ensure the forecasts and services would not be degraded.
NWSEO maintains that local forecasts centers are a more efficient use of taxpayer money. The union advocates that more weather offices would enhance forecasting and emergency response in cities like Charlotte, Baltimore, San Francisco, Ft Myers, Florida, Hilo Hawaii, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The big question is, when an emergency strikes, who do you want helping you; a local team of experts who’ve prepared together and know how to respond to the unique challenges of your area or a regional group who know your hometown as only a dot on the radar map?” Sobien added.

Media Contact: Lisa Luciani
National Weather Service Employees Organization
Phone: 202-907-3036
mediarelations@nwseo.org

June 18, 2015 News Articles

Washington Post – Senate Bill to Centralize Weather Service Forecasting Draws Heated Reactions
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/06/18/senate-bill-to-centralize-weather-service-forecasting-draws-heated-reactions/

AL.com - 'Lives would be lost' if weather offices consolidated, Rep. Aderholt says
http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/06/lives_would_be_lost_if_weather.html

Tulsa, OK - News on 6 - A Senate Bill Could Cut the Number of Weather Service Offices from 122 to 6
http://www.newson6.com/story/29337502/a-senate-bill-could-cut-the-number-of-weather-service-offices-from-122-to-just-6

June 16, 2015
Washington Post
Senate bill proposes centralizing Weather Service forecasting in 6 regional offices
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/06/16/senate-bill-proposes-centralizing-weather-service-forecasting-into-6-regional-offices/

May 28, 2015 Washington Post: President Obama tours the National Hurricane Center

May 14, 2015 NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth - Scott Friedman Investigative Report

National Weather Service Office in Forth Worth Understaffed this Storm Season

April 28, 2015 Washington Post - Storm brewing over National Weather Service Television Studio

NWSEO President Dan Sobien and NWSEO General Counsel Richard Hirn are quoted in support of this innovative weather studio in the NWS Birmingham WFO. From the article:

"The National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO), a labor union, thinks the experiment in Birmingham should be nationalized – with cameras at every NWS office. “Having these pool cameras would help the TV stations and NWS, a win-win,” said Dan Sobien, NWSEO president. “[T]hese pool cameras would create first class briefing stations for emergency managers and first responders when needed.”
“NWSEO believes that the NWS should be the face of dissemination,” added Richard Hirn, counsel for the NWSEO. “That the public should have direct access to us; that they should know where the warnings and forecasts are coming from; and while the private sector can add value to NWS products, the capacity of the private sector should never be a basis for the NWS to decline to directly communicate with the public.”

 

January 30, 2015 - NBC News article focuses on how the IDSS Pilots prepare cities for severe weather events
NBC News on East Coast Storm
by Tony Dokoupil

Popular Mechanics: Why the entie U.S. Satellite System is at Risk January 16, 2015; Reporter Kathryn Miles

Energywire PM: NOAA: 2 NWS technicians worked 7 straight months without a day off.

Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, November 14, 2014

http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/stories/1060008967

Two National Weather Service employees worked seven consecutive months without a day off, according to an email from the agency's director that addresses the consequences of "budget uncertainty."

NWS Director Louis Uccellini sent the email yesterday to follow up on accusations made at last week's All-Hands Town Hall webinar. At the meeting, the head of the agency's union referenced employees working "at least seven straight months of rotating shift work" at a weather forecasting office in American Samoa.

The National Weather Service Employees Organization has long railed against what it says are widespread vacancies throughout the agency. Earlier this year, union officials asserted that 14 percent of positions were vacant; NWS officials say they are filling them as quickly as they can and are on an upward trend.

In his email, provided by the union, Uccellini described the situation at the American Samoa office as "very difficult" but also an "isolated incident."

Beginning in 2013, the office had two vacancies out of five meteorological technician slots, he wrote. One of the three remaining technicians took sick leave for four pay periods, leaving just two. Then, after he returned to duty, another technician died of a heart attack.

Before he died, the technician -- who was one of those who had been working every day for months -- discussed with his supervisor "the potential for sick leave" to get stress tests. According to Uccellini, that sick leave would have been granted, but the technician never submitted the request.

Today, the office has three vacant meteorological technician positions, while an additional technician is on leave. Other employees have had to help cover the shifts.

Uccellini said the forecasting office plans to bring in a retired technician and is awaiting final confirmation to hire two veterans. Other Pacific region offices have also offered employees to assist with "temporary details" to fill the gaps.

"I commend the employees at Pago Pago, as well as the NWS employees at all the other field offices and centers, for their dedication and hard work during these difficult times brought on by the budget uncertainty in 2013," Uccellini wrote.

Agencywide, he said, officials "are doing everything we can to expedite the filling of vacancies within our ranks." That includes a new contract with the Office of Personnel Management to speed up the process.

New York Times: Our Failing Weather Infrastructure - Reporter Kathryn Miles

(October 31, 2014) From the New York Times article: "Meteorologists at all levels of the National Weather Service are exceedingly talented, hardworking scientists. They can do far more than their jobs currently allow, including issuing seven-day storm forecasts and using global information systems to create surge maps that would assist emergency managers in evacuations. But, as one senior administrator at the National Hurricane Center told me, “we can barely keep the trains running.” And that’s a dangerous proposition for all of us." Read the full article.

October 15, 2014

Missing Weathermen: Alarming Issue? - Reporter Tony Wood

October 1, 2014

Many thanks to the NWSEO members who helped us with this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer "Weather Warning" - Reporter Tony Wood

Weather Forecasters, Hurricane Hunters
Endorse James Lee Witt for Congress

(September 15, 2014, Washington, DC)  The National Weather Service Employees Organization, which represents the forecasters and technicians at the National Weather Service, the civilian crews of the nation’s hurricane hunter aircraft, as well as the government’s hurricane researchers today endorsed James Lee Witt for Congress in the 4th Congressional District of Arkansas.  The union’s members staff the NWS’s 122 Weather Forecast Offices nationwide, the National Hurricane Cente, and the nation’s two Tsunami Warning Centers. They are responsible for issuing warnings of severe weather.

“If there is anyone in public life today who understands the importance of protecting the American people from natural disasters, it is James Lee,” said Dan Sobien, the Lead Emergency Response Meteorologist at the Tampa Forecast Office, who serves as President of the NWSEO. “Before James Lee, FEMA was a political dumping ground, and he professionalized it and brought a heightened awareness to being prepared for severe weather. His leadership as head of FEMA served as an example for state and local emergency management agencies across the nation, and they have improved their degree of professionalism and level of service as a result.”

“The National Weather Service needs a strong advocate in Congress,” Sobien added. “The National Weather Service has seen significant cut backs in staff in the past several years, and recent service assessments have disclosed that this has resulted in the agency’s diminished ability to issue warnings during the most severe weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy.“

- NWSEO-

Dan Sobien, President
National Weather Service Employees Organization
Phone: 202-420-1043
president@nwseo.org

July 14, 2014

Many thanks to the NWSEO members who helped us with this story in Greenwire. The reporter, Emily Yehle, included a lot of research and interviews for this article. Your help is greatly appreciated.
NOAA: With satellite on death watch, forecasts face uncertain future

June 30, 2014

Bakersfield Californian: Worst of Drought Still to Come - by NWSEO Members Gary Sanger and Kevin Durfee

May 22, 2014

Mashable: National Weather Service Warning System Hobbled at Worst Possible Time - Andrew Freedman

Slate: Big technical difficulties at the National Weather Service this afternoon - Eric Holthaus

Washington Post: National Weather Service failed to warn part of DC area of dangerous thunderstorm - Jason Samenow

NOAA: 14% of Weather Service staff slots vacant -- union

by Emily Yehle of Greenwire (An E & E publication)
May 14, 2014

The National Weather Service is operating with nearly 14 percent of its staff slots unfilled after years of hiring freezes, according to the agency's union.
In the past, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declined to say exactly how many vacancies exist at the Weather Service, but the NWS Employees Organization recently did its own count, tallying empty positions at every office. It counted 548 openings.
Of those vacancies, the union says 396 are "emergency essential," meaning they would usually be filled with employees who must report to work in extreme weather such as hurricanes, floods and blizzards. They include meteorologists, hydrologists and electronic technicians who keep equipment like radars working. (More)

NWSEO Segment on NBC TODAY Show
NWSEO Garners National Media Attention on NWS Staffing Shortages

May 14, 2014 print copy

(May 14, 2014) NWSEO’s efforts to highlight critical staffing shortages of Emergency Essential Employees has garnered results on a national scale, including a live shot and segment on the NBC TODAY Show on Friday, May 9. We are still working with national media on this effort and expect more news stories to air within the weekHere are links to recent stories as a result of this effort:

NBC TODAY Show, Friday, May 9
Concerns Grow over Weather Service staff shortage

May 5, 2014 NBC 5 Dallas: Many National Weather Service Offices Short-Handed This Storm Season by Scott Friedman

May 6, 2014, NBC KPRC Houston: National Weather Service staffing shortage by Phil Archer

May 8, 2014 ABC 2 WBAY Green Bay, WI: National Weather Service Office shorthandded for severe storm season

Additionally, NWSEO’s communications and media involvement with the Fed-Postal Coalition also has NWSEO featured in their “What Dreams are Made of” campaign with an image featuring NWSEO member Robb Lawson on the lower right side of the graphic. The image will be shared by the Fed-Postal Coalition and will appear on their America Counts on Us Facebook page. We are asking our members to show their support by “liking” this page on Facebook. Thank you for your NWSEO membership. You are the strength of our organization.

-NWSEO-

May 6, 2014 NBC News: Budget Cuts Mean Weather Forecaster Shortage in Tornado Alley by Scott Friedman

May 5, 2014 NBC 5 Dallas: Many National Weather Service Offices Short-Handed This Storm Seasonby Scott Friedman

January 31, 2014 WZTV Fox 17 Nashville: Workers Concerned about NWS Hiring Freeze

January 24, 2014 Washington Post: Union Claims National Weather Service Sitting on Surplus during Hiring Freeze

January 24, 2014 Federal News Radio: Federal Drive Interview with NWSEO President Dan Sobien

January 22, 2014 Federal News Radio: NWS, Union Spar over Agency Vacancies

January 21, 2014 - Federal Daily: Weather Service says Forecaster Hiring Freeze Not Necessary

January 21, 2014 - Greenwire: Union blasts Weather Service hiring freeze on budget surplus

NWSEO Headlines & News Stories 2010 - 2013

Evidence reveals National Weather Service had $125 million Surplus:
Agency’s Hiring Freeze of Hurricane and Tornado Forecasters is an Unnecessary Risk

2013 NWS Budget Spreadsheet

(January 21, 2014) Hundreds of hurricane, tornado and fire weather forecaster vacancies across the country in the National Weather Service due to a hiring freeze were unnecessary and dangerous. The National Weather Service claimed funding issues and implemented the hiring freeze in March 2013 – despite evidence showing the Agency was flush with $125 million in unspent funding. The information was revealed at arbitration over unfilled vacancies in the National Weather Service held January 13 – 16. While most of the money would have required a routine request for reprogramming which happens every year, almost $10 million came out of Local Warnings and Forecast account and was readily available for employees’ salaries. The NWS currently has 451 vacancies.

The Agency implemented the hiring freeze on March 27, 2013 claiming that it did not have funds to fill the vacancies. The attached spreadsheet outlines the $125 million surplus in appropriated funds. Approximately half of that amount is money left over on the various line items that make up "Operations, Research and Facilities" and continues to be available for the NWS to spend this fiscal year in addition to the new funds appropriated by Congress this week. The other half of the $125 million is in “Procurement, Acquisition and Construction” and remains available until the end of FY 15. (Not only has Congress fully funded the President’s FY 2014 request for the NWS, but it added an additional $11 million to the Local Warnings and Forecast account).

On the attached spreadsheet: "Operations, Research and Facilities" Row 1011 shows FY 2012 and Row 1015 shows FY 2013. “Procurement, Acquisition and Construction” Row 1012 shows FY 2012 and Row 1014 shows FY 2013.

NWSEO contends that the NWS has funds that could be reprogrammed to fill vacancies. Similarly, the NWS has needlessly terminated training, travel and conference attendance, and delayed maintenance when funds were available.

Media Contact: Dan Sobien, President
National Weather Service Employees Organization
Phone: 202-420-1043
president@nwseo.org

NWSEO 2013 News Archives
November 14, 2013
NWSEO News Release: National Weather Service to Evict Employees from Housing at Tsunami Center; Inspector General Complaint Filed

October 17, 2013 KTUL Tulsa, OK Shutdown Ends: Furloughed Employees Return to Work

October 15, 2013 NWS Workers work without pay; Shutdown to Blame OzarksFirst.com

October 12, 2013: NWS and shutdown: Meteorologists working, no payKSPR Springfield, MO

Government Executive: National Weather Service Forecasts Frustration of Federal Workers

(Oct. 10, 2013) "There's a pretty high level of frustration among people," Sobien said. "Any time there's a political disagreement in Washington, federal employees are getting kicked in the shins. That was the face of frustration."

Washington Post: 15 Ways the Federal Shutdown is Hampering the National Weather Service by Jason Samenow

Climate Central: NWS Staff Walks to Work in Blizzard despite Shutdown by Andrew Freedman

Popular Science Magazine - October 4, 2013

NWSEO President Dan Sobien is quoted several times in this Popular Science article. The Government Employees Responsible for Saving us from Hurricanes are Working for No Pay

Popular Science Magazine - October 4, 2013

The Government Employees Responsible for Saving us from Hurricanes are Working for No Pay

Media News from the 2013 National Convention
NWSEO garners more than 8 million views in print, television, radio and online media.

(September 30, 2013) Communications Director Lisa Luciani presented a media report at the 38th annual NWSEO Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. Last year we received more than 8 million media impressions through print, television, radio and online media. Many thanks to the cooperation of our active stewards and union members for their support in this accomplishment. Lisa is also working with the Federal Postal Coalition, a national organization that promotes the work of federal employees, to highlight the work of NWS and the 5 bargaining units represented by NWSEO.

Lisa stressed that the local stewards are key to having an effective media relations effort. This year, we had an expanded media/communications effort to help prevent the NWS furloughs. The ability to provide a NWSEO steward as spokesperson in every interested media market was crucial to the success of the effort. She also mentioned that the messages we send are strategic and marketed. Stewards were thanked for the input into our communications and asked to stay on message when working with the media.

NWS Meteorologist and NOAA Hurricane Hunters highlighted as "Coolest Federal Jobs"

(September 3, 2013) NWSEO is partnering with the Federal Postal Coalition to communicate the important role of federal employees. NWS meteorologists and Hurricane Hunters were highlighted in this Labor Day edition of BuzzFeed as part of the effort. Only 11 careers were highlighted in all - Hurricane Hunters topped the list.

This is also posted on the Fed-Postal FaceBook page, America Counts on Us. Please like them. They're good to ally.

Which of these cool federal/postal jobs would you want to do each day?

1. NOAA Hurricane Hunters

HurricaneHunters
http://www.buzzfeed.com/federalpostalcoalition/taking-care-of-baby-pandas-and-11-other-fed-jobs-ee1v

June 5, 2013 - Grand Rapids, MI - MLive

After deadly twister outbreaks, Grand Rapids forecaster furloughs nixed

June 1, 2013 - The Hill

Weather agency ends furloughs as deadly tornadoes strike Okla.

May 28, 2013 - HNGN Headline and Global News - NOAA blames budget cut from the government for poor weather forecasts

Furloughs and Hiring Freeze to the NWS
Threaten Forecast Accuracy

May 1 print copy

Scroll down for News Coverage of this release.

(May 1, 2013) National Weather Service employees say that four furlough days added to the current hiring freeze stretches already short staffed offices to a breaking point, puts the American public at risk and jeopardizes the agency’s mission of saving lives and property. Most of the NWS employees being furloughed are designated "emergency essential,” because of their public safety responsibilities and are required to work even during catastrophic conditions. Commerce, air travel, and most daily events hinge on accurate forecasts. The forecasts become life savers in the summer when floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires and thunderstorms are most prevalent.

“Furloughs to the National Weather Service, in conjunction with furloughs to the other agencies the nation depends on for emergency services, is like playing “chicken” with the American public,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien. “One missed event would realistically, cost millions. NOAA is risking everything and has nothing to gain. It’s not a sound decision.”
The NWS has reduced staffing at forecast offices nationwide due to a hiring slowdown over the past two years.  The March 27 NOAA hiring freeze has many currently understaffed forecasting offices feeling the strain even during fair weather days.
Potential impacts of NOAA’s decision include:

  • Decreased accuracy of aviation, marine, fire weather and water level forecasts that will cost billions of dollars in flight delays and increased risk of lives and property.
  • Reduced efficiency and accuracy for tornado events due to reduced alertness of short staffed offices.
  • Staffing shortages at the Hurricane Center will result in increased errors which could be catastrophic. Less NOAA staff will be available to fly into hurricanes.
  • Reduced ability to deploy weather support for wildfires and other emergencies.
  • A disruption in observations impacting weather model accuracy.
  • Outages of critical meteorological, hydrological, satellite, and radar data because less employees will be available to fix system glitches. Help desks and parts warehouses will likely be short-staffed resulting in further delays.

“Staffing at weather forecasting offices is already stretched thin. The very people we count on to be alert for watches and warnings are working overtime and changing from day shift to night shift and back in the same week,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien.  “Unfortunately, it will only take one bad storm to show that NOAA is dangerously cutting corners in the wrong places.”

-NWSEO-

Dan Sobien, President
National Weather Service Employees Organization
Phone: 202-420-1043
president@nwseo.org

 

Furlough Press Kit

Furlough News Release

Furlough Speaking Points

May 28, 2013

HNGN Headline and Global News - NOAA blames budget cut from the government for poor weather forecasts

May 23, 2013

Washington Post - Weather Service systems crumbling as extreme weather escalates

DC - WUSA CBS9 - Va. Rep. letter opposes NWS furloughs, Mentions OK tornado

Letter from Rep. Frank Wolf

Politico Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Birmingham, AL ABC33/40 Furloughs and Forecasting

Phoenix, AZ CBS5 Concerns that NOAA sequestration could affect public safety

May 22, 2013

Philly.com/The Inquirer Tornado and Weather Service furloughs

Government Executive -It's no time to furlough Weather Service employees, lawmaker says

May 21, 2013

The Nation - Budget cuts endanger the agency that saved countless lives in Oklahoma

Politico - NOAA still planning to furlough storm forecasters

Salon - Anyone regret slashing the National Weather Service budget now?

May 20, 2013

Norman, OK Forecast Office b-roll of the forecasters track the storm

May 16, 2013

NPR Around the Nation Sequestration may make hurricane season stormier than usual

Philly.com/ The Inquirer - Storm warning over cuts

May 15, 2013

Clarion Ledger, Jackson, MS Storm brews among National Weather Service employees over proposed furloughs

May 10, 2013

CBS News Channel 12 Jackson, MS NWS faceing furloughs; Public could be at risk

May 9, 2013

Washington Post Hiring freeze hobbling operations at local Weather Service office

USA Today Cuts threaten Weather Service as hurricane season nears (Tallahassee, FL)

WTXL ABC 27 Tallahassee, FL National Weather Service concerned about budget cuts

ABC 22 Fox 44 Burlington, VT Weather Service faces furloughs

Grand Rapids, MI - M-Live News Sequester strikes again Grand Rapids weather forecasters say furlough plans a public safety 'gamble'

Monroe, LA - The NewStar - Weather Service at risk of furloughs

May 7, 2013

Huffington Post - Sam Stein - Impact of Sequester: Weather Balloons May Get Cut Loose

April 5, 2013 Congressional Quarterly Roll Call - Kerry Young - Tough Budgeting Places National Weather Service In an Uneasy Orbit

May 4, 2013

WCCO CBS 4 Minneapolis, MN Nat'l Weather Service cuts could put Minnesotans in harms way

May 3, 2013

Fox 2 St. Louis, MO - NWS Cuts could impact quality of warnings

Longview, Texas, News Journal - Furloughs for the National Weather Service employees could affect safety, official says

Boulder, CO - Daily Camera - Boulder forecasters in path of sequester's predicted staffing furloughs

May 2, 2013

Federal Daily - NWS employees say furloughs may endanger public safety

CBS Miami - Hurricane Center could be part of NOAA's planned furloughs

Charlotte, NC WSOC-TV Ch. 9 - National Weather Service to see furloughs during hurricane season

Honolulu, Hawaii - KHON - Ch. 2 NOAA employees face potential furloughs

WPSD-NBC6- Paducah, Kentucky - Furlough days proposed for National Weather Service

Los Angeles Times - California fire: 6,500 acres, no containment; Santa Ana's 'winning'

April 30, 2013

CNN - Furloughs in the forecast for NOAA workers, just in time for hurricane season - Joe Sutton

CBS-KTVA11 Alaska - National Weather Service Staffers face Furloughs

April 29, 2013 - Fairbanks Alaska - Daily News Miner National Weather Service office might face furlough

April 22, 2013 - WWLTV New Orleans Federal cuts at NOAA lead to possible furloughs at NWS office

April 22, 2013 - NWSEO News Release -National Weather Service Employees Organization endorses Senator Schatz for Re-election

April 17, 2013 - Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.comStorm Clouds at Weather Service by Tony Wood

April 16, 2013- Government Executive

Four Furlough Days at NOAA Lawmaker Offers Budget Help by Charles Clark

April 15, 2013 - Washington Post - Furloughs Proposed for the NWS, NOAA by Jason Samenow

April 5, 2013 - Congressional Quarterly Roll Call:
Tough Budgeting Places National Weather Service in an Uneasy Orbit

(April 5, 2013) Tough Budgeting Places National Weather Service In an Uneasy Orbit NWSEO President Dan Sobien is quoted in this article several times including:

“Even on fair weather days, offices report overtime and temporary promotions to fill the gaps, leaving forecasters fatigued from working off rotation shifts or shifts with a quick turnaround,” Daniel Sobien, the union president, said in a statement. “In one office, it was called, ‘a scheduling nightmare in which no one works their regular schedule anymore.’”

Sobien said in an interview that short staffing is affecting the quality of the forecasts. The agency has support in Congress, he said, but faces challenges within NOAA.

“For some reason, they weren’t asking for enough money all along,” he said. “NOAA has a lot of competing interests and its own priorities.”

April 5, 2013 Chuck's Chatter
The NWS Reward for Employee Idealism - Revisited

April 2, 2013 Climate Wire: NOAA institutes a hiring freeze, worrying emergency managers. Reporter: Stephanie Paige Ogburn

 

March 18, 2013

Washington Post: National Weather Service cutting back on hiring, spending

(March 18, 2013) Washington Post- National Weather Service cutting back on hiring, spending. NWSEO president is quoted in this article several times, including:
Sobien said the forecaster vacancies are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there about 200 unfilled staff positions within the NWS.
“It’s phenomenal,” Sobien said. “The vacancy rate which was 3 percent just two years ago is up to 9 percent.”

March 7, 2013

Philadelphia Inquirer

Weather and Politics by Tony Wood

March 6, 2013

Washington Post

Sequester could ultimately affect severe-weather forecasting by Josh Hicks

Bloomberg

Weather balloons seen at risk of being grounded by U.S. cuts by Kathleen Miller

February 28, 2013 News Articles

Washington Post: Sequester threatens nation's weather forecasting by Jason Samenow

Climate Central: Budget cuts may degrade weather, climate forecasting by Andrew Freedman

 

NWSEO 2012 News Archives

November 4, 2012 The Weather Guru

National Weather Service Pays for Itself Again

October 18, 2012 - Washington Post: Capital Weather Gang

NOAA participation in climate conference in limbo due to lack of travel approval

October 9, 2012 - Washington Post: Capital Weather Gang

NWS employees barred from attending major weather conference at last minute

September 9, 2012 NWSEO News Release - National Weather Service Employees Organization
Endorses Representative Mazie Hirono for U.S. Senate
 printable copy

Related Links

KGMB and HNN (Hawaii News Now)

Honolulu Civil Bea

June 27, 2012 - Government Executive - Panel approves funds to avoid Weather Service furloughs

June 22, 2012 - Washington Post - NOAA chief cites management ‘failure’ in NWS financial scandal

June 21, 2012 - Transcript of House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science Hearing

June 7, 2012 NWSEO News Release

NOAA Leadership’s Mismanagement of Funds May Result in Furloughs of all NWS Agency Employees

Related News Stories - June 8, 2012:

Washington Post: Weather Service may impose furloughs

Washington Post Capital Weather Gang Blog: Working to Avoid Weather Service Furloughs

Philadelphia Inquirer: New Storm at Weather Service

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Weather Service furloughs blog

Federal TImes: National Weather Service staff may get furloughted

Government Executive:Weather Service says it may furlough 5,000

May 3, 2012 - NWSEO General Counsel Richard Hirn explains NWS budget issues on Federal News Radio

(May 30, 2012)Federal News Radio interviewed NWSEO General Counsel Richard Hirn on NWS Director Jack Hayes' retirement and the current budget issues the National Weather Service faces. Click here for the Federal News Radio interview. Scroll down to Richard Hirn's name to locate the audio clip of the interview.

NWS Director Jack Hayes Retires

(May 25, 2012) Jack Hayes, Director of the National Weather Service since 2007 announced his retirement today, effective May 29. Read Dr. Hayes' retirement announcement here.

Related News Articles:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Washington Post - Senators tell Weather Service Congress won't authorize plan to shift money

Monday, May 28, 2012

Washington Post - Weather Service director retires after critical investigation of agency

CNN - Weather Service improperly shifted government funds

Politico - Jack Hayes, National Weather Service Director - retires

April 17, 2012

CBS 58 Milwaukee

NWS cuts could affect public safety

April 16, 2012

Dayton Daily News

Proposed Weather Service Changes could cut $10M
Plan cuts $10 partly by restructuring jobs linked to warning technology

April 10, 2012

WSHM - CBS 3, Springfield, Mass.

Proposed Budget Cuts to NWS may Delay Warnings.

April 3, 2012

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 3, 2012

Plan to cut National Weather Service workers denounced

March 29, 2012

Washington Post, March 29, 2012

National Weather Service Budget Cuts Misguided, Misplaced

March 21, 2012

Philadelphia Inquirer, Anthony Woods reports:
Weather Service worries about White House's proposed cuts to it's budget

Charleston City Paper, Paul Bowers reports:

Obama budget would eliminate IT jobs at National Weather Service 

Greenwire Article: Agency, union spar over tornado-warning upgrades in deadly storms' wake
Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012

April 2, 2012 - NWSEO Highlights Problems with AWIPS 2, Expresses Deployment Concerns
in Email to Dr. Jane Lubchenco

March 2, 2012 -NWSEO News Release - Critical Infrastructure Problems Plague National Weather Service during Tornado Outbreaks

Media Coverage on this issue

Protect the ITO Position Press Kit

Fact Sheet - Speaking points

Spanish - Fact Sheet - Speaking points

News Release

White Paper - Detailed report on the ITO position

Spanish version - White Paper Detailed report on the ITO position

You can also write to Dr. Jane Lubchenco at:
HCHB Building Suite 6622 Room 5810
Washington DC

Contact your Senator and Congressional Representative

You can call or email your State Senator using the locator below.
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

You can call or email your Congressional Representatives using the locator below:
https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Media Coverage

News Coverage of President's Obama's 2013 Budget and the ITO Positions

February 13, 2012 - NWSEO News Release - President Obama’s 2013 Budget Plan Cuts Crucial Positions at Weather Forecast Offices, Jeopardizing the Lifesaving Mission of the National Weather Service

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Media Coverage

January 17, 2012 - NWSEO News Release FLRA charges OPM with violation of labor law in capping Federal employee awards in case brought by NWS employees’ union

January 10, 2012

Information Week Government

(January 10, 2012) The National Weather Service has decided not to expend any internal resources to develop device-specific mobile application for iPhones, Androids, or iPads, and the federal agency's union is not happy about it. (Full article)

IT Business Edge - Weather Service Puts App Development on Hold

(January 10, 2012) Feeling your work is on the cutting edge can be a big attraction for a job. So it's no wonder the National Weather Service Employees Union is up in arms about a agency directive not to be building weather apps for specific mobile devices.
Full Article

January 9, 2012

Washington Post - National Weather Service hold on mobile apps stirs controversy

(January 9, 2012) Weather apps. There are hundreds - perhaps thousands - of them, for mobile phones, tablet PCs, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices. The vast majority of these weather apps are made by private companies, using data provided by the National Weather Service and other sources. The Weather Service itself does not currently have an iPhone or an Android app, despite the explosive growth in the use of these devices, and the fact that many more people already rely on them for hazardous weather information than, say, NOAA Weather Radio. (Full article)

Nextgov - Technology and the Business of Government - The Great Gov Apps Debate Hits NOAA

(January 9, 2012) The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has put together probably the best presentation to date of the ideological conflict between government-built mobile applications and industry-built apps that rely on government data.

According to the Weather Gang's report, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials put the kibosh on any government-built weather apps in a post-Christmas memo, citing the large number of high-quality and often-free industry-built apps that use National Weather Service data. (Full article)

January 5, 2012 - Politico - Rick Santorum's Campaign could be clouded by 7-year-old attack on National Weather Service

(January 5, 2012) Will Rick Santorum’s lost crusade against the National Weather Service rain on his suddenly hot presidential campaign?

While a seemingly obscure issue next to abortion, gay marriage and tax cuts, weather forecasting inspired a defining controversy for the tail end of Santorum’s U.S. Senate career: his sponsorship of a 2005 bill aimed at hobbling the federal agency’s ability to compete with commercial forecasters like AccuWeather. (Full article)

NWSEO 2011 News Archives

January 2011 Deepwater Horizon Cleanup; Budget holdup will delay NOAA weather satellites

February 2011 NWS Internet Communication Failure; Continuing resolution HR1 proposed budget cuts

National Weather Service’s Catastrophic Failure to Communicate
Jeopardizes Emergency Responders during Blizzard

(February 1, 2011) Large scale communication problems at the National Weather Service are hampering the agency’s ability to relay information to emergency responders, the media, and the general public.

(February 15, 2011)  As hurricane and tornado seasons approach, funding for the NWS will be nearly 30 percent less than the first half of 2011, if the Continuing Resolution proposed by the House majority is enacted. printable copy

March 2011

News Coverage of Earthquake in Japan - March 2011

Federal Shutdown Looms –
National Weather Service Employees Carry on Mission of Saving Lives and Property

April 2011

April 2011 House Fiscal 11 Budget Proposal could devastate NWS life-saving warnings and forecasts

(April 7, 2011)   Government offices are bracing for a possible shutdown on April 9 due to a budget impasse in Congress. print copy

Related News Articles

House Fiscal 11 Budget Proposal Could Devastate
The National Weather Service’s Life-saving Warnings and Forecasts

Related News Articles

May 2011

May 2011 Advancing the mission of saving lives– Investments in the NWS could improve tornado warnings

June 2011

June 2011 NWS report reveals dangerous understaffing as President Obama cites threats to agency funding;

Related Articles

Washington Post June 29, 2011 - Don't Gut the Weather Service: Obama warns against cutting too much

Houston Chronicle, June 30, 2011 - President: Budget cuts might compromise the National Weather Service

Satellite Gap Could Put Hurricane Forecasts at Risk Herald Tribune, Kate Spinner (June 9, 2011)

July 2011

New York Times, July 21, 2011 “Unions Launch Campaigns to Protect Government Employees in Debt Deal.”

August 2011

August 24, 2011 News Release NWSEO Files Legal Action against OPM Cap on Federal Employee Awards

(August 29, 2011) Politico - NWSEO Slams Fox News op-ed

November 2011

(November 21, 2011) Washington Post: Congress Kills Request for National Climate Service
Congress Kills Request for National Climate Service

(November 12, 2011) President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera visits the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and thanks employees for life-saving work during the February 27 Chilean earthquake.

December 2011

Washington Post December 29, 2011 - Some things the Government got right in 2011" Some things the Government got right in 2011

"The National Weather Service — often overlooked in conversations about federal disaster response — also deserves credit for once again providing reliable, accurate weather predictions. " (Full article)

December 12, 2011 Houston Chronicle - NOAA Chief: On the Gulf, climate and future of weather forecasting

"The National Weather Service plays a key role both in providing weather forecasts as well as disaster warnings. We will always continue to do better and better, and often times with less and less, and that’s the direction we’re headed, but I don’t foresee any major restructuring." - Dr. Jane Lubchenco

(December 8, 2011) Associated Press - Billion-dollar Weather Disasters Smash US Record

Billion-dollar weather disasters smash US record -- Associated Press

This article emphasizes the importance of theNational Weather Service and it's mission to save lives and property. NWSEO is involved in numerous pilot programs in order to better prepare the public of extreme weather events.

 

NWSEO 2010 News Archives

September 2010 NWSEO Criticizes Office of Inspector General's Report on NOAA Fisheries Enforcement

Congressman Wu Supports NWSEO's Stand Against Eliminating Positions at Wallops Island Station

(June 25, 2010) Congressman David Wu (D-OR) wrote a letter to Department of Congress Secretary Gary Locke expressing concerns over NOAA's plans to base the tracking station for the next generation of polar tracking satellites to Spitzenbergen Island. Read Congressman Wu's letter here.

NWSEO Grievances Net Back Pay for Nearly 200 NWS Employees  -
FLSA Exempt Status of 165 Others to be Resolved

(April 6, 2010) By the end of April, nearly 200 NWS employees should receive overtime pay as a result of NWSEO grievances. Last fall, NWSEO filed two grievances challenging the FLSA exempt status of met interns, GS-12 regional maintenance specialists, GS-11 facilities engineering technicians, and approximately 80 other positions.

NWS Submits new plan to FAA to Enhance Aviation Safety

(March 26, 2010) The NWS delivered a plan to the FAA last week, designed to enhance aviation safety by providing 24/7 coverage to FAA Air Traffic Controllers for flight assists while maintaining face to face contact between NWS Meteorologists and Controllers during the busiest hours of the day.

NWS Quality of Work Life Team Commends NWSEO Fair Pay efforts for ASAs

(March 26, 2010) The NWS Quality of Work Life Team commends NWSEO on their efforts to secure fair pay for ASAs and acknowledges the difficulty of retaining quality ASAs when other agencies pay more money for similar work.

Federal Employees to Receive Retirement Credit in for Unused Sick Leave

(March 26, 2010) Federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System will receive credit for their unused sick leave in their retirement calculations. President Barack Obama signed the provision, which is part of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, into law last week.

NWSEO Wins Appeal - NWSEO to Bargain to Increase Staffing at Anchorage WFO by 10 Positions

( March 23, 2010) The Federal Labor Relations Authority reversed its earlier decision and sustained NWSEO's negotiability appeal in the Anchorage WFO case. This directs the National Weather Service to bargain with NWSEO over a proposal that would increase staffing at the Anchorage WFO by ten positions.

NWSEO Supports Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

((March 23, 2010) NWSEO is joining other federal unions in support of a bill designed to ensure that federal employees receive the best benefits at the most affordable prices.

NWSEO President Co-Chairs New DOC National Labor Management Forum

(March 5, 2010) NWSEO President Dan Sobien spent the first week of March in Washington DC as co-chair of the Department of Commerce Labor Management Forum.

NWSEO’s Diligent Work Pays Off: Department of Commerce Puts the Brakes on Plans to Consolidate CWSUs

(February 8, 2010) The Department of Commerce has decided it will not accede to the FAA’s request to close and consolidate the NWS Center Weather Service Units located at 21 ARTCCs.  Secretary Gary Locke made the decision after meeting personally with NWSEO President Dan Sobien, Vice President Bill Hopkins and General Counsel Richard Hirn to discuss the issue. New political appointees at NOAA, including Under Secretary Dr. Jane Lubchenco and her staff helped facilitate the decision.

NWSEO Endorses the National Climate Service Roll Out

February 8, 2010) NWSEO President Dan Sobien and Vice President Bill Hopkins participated in the unveiling of the National Climate Service on Monday February 8, 2010. NWSEO's collaboration on the design of the NCS secured that the products, services and the role of the National Weather Service will be preserved as will our jobs.

CWSU Update - New Concept Test at Three Cities

(February 8, 2010) NWSEO's diligent work to prevent the consolidation of CWSU is showing results. The NWS delivery of DemVal has been put on hold and NWSEO has a commitment that new resources (including FTEs) will be placed at the CWSUs or otherwise used in the aviation program. NWSEO and NWS are working together to develop solutions to weather related aviation problems. This includes special projects with increased NWS personnel at the CWSU and WFOs in New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago.

NWSEO Media Relations Resource by Steward Mark Pellerito

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