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Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service (fortune.com) 524

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: After a year that saw over $300 million in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS's labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. All totaled, the Weather Service faces cuts of $75 million in the initial proposal. Some or all of those cuts could be jettisoned before the bill is voted upon. "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

Further reading: The Washington Post
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Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @08:54PM (#56119351)

    After a bunch of so-called deficit hawks and fiscal conservatives were finished with their 1 trillion dollar giveaway to the rich, they had to do something they could point at in November to reclaim their conservative bona fides. So they're going to attempt gutting every non-military program in the federal budget.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @08:58PM (#56119377)

      Instead of increasing military, it would be cheaper to give every country 250 gold and have 4 turns of peace.

      • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:00PM (#56119389)

        That works right up to the point where Gandhi gets nukes.

        • That works right up to the point where Gandhi gets nukes.

          Yeah, Ghandi has been pretty pissed since he made his comeback in the 80s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:04PM (#56119425)

      lol,when has a Republican administration ever been "deficit hawks"? If there's one pattern in politics it's that deficits shrink under the Dems and blow out under the GOP.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:09PM (#56119459)

        Yup. That's because Democrats are "tax and spend" and Republicans are "don't tax but spend anyway".

      • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:21PM (#56119513) Journal
        Here is an interesting take [goliards.us] and it puts the budget into constant dollars. Might be a bit instructive...
        • by pots ( 5047349 )
          I like that, it's an informative set of charts and a good visualization... but interpreting it is certainly helped by having some awareness of what the economy was doing at the time.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 )
        It's not really that simple, and completely ignores the recent Obama administration that saw some of the largest deficits in U.S. history. Neither party is terribly fiscally responsible when it comes down to it and arguing about it is pointless since there are countless examples of both Democrats and Republicans overspending across the years.
      • lol,when has a Republican administration ever been "deficit hawks"?

        Eisenhower. That was back when the Republicans had principles and the Democrats had vision.

    • by g01d4 ( 888748 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:42PM (#56119617)
      It's frustrating. Trump's fundamental belief du jour is military good, everything else bad. There's no option for discussion, let alone argument. This is what he's being told his core supporters believe so he's along for the ride. What he said in the past [cnn.com] about military waste be damned.
      • by chromaexcursion ( 2047080 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @10:03PM (#56119721)
        There are two sides to military waste.
        The bloated programs that are kept alive by both military bureaucracy and congressional political issues.
        And then there's absolute waste. It takes an act of congress for the military to buy almost anything, literally. So, instead of buying, they lease. The leases cost far more. Sometimes far, far more. But, they can schedule the payments so congressional action is not required. The military is a business, and this is no way to run a business. Congress is the board of directors, and they need to be taken out of the day to day decision system. No successful business can run that way.
        • And then there's absolute waste. It takes an act of congress for the military to buy almost anything, literally. So, instead of buying, they lease. The leases cost far more. Sometimes far, far more.

          In my experience working for the government, most government bloat is caused by all the rules and regulations put in place to try and prevent bloat.

        • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:17PM (#56122769)

          Congress is the board of directors, and they need to be taken out of the day to day decision system.

          This is by design. The Constitution even limits the military budget process to no more than two years, with no similar limit on any other cabinet department. Back in 1789 when the Constitution was drafted, military coups were more common than they are today. Even outside of coups, military leaders were far more influential in governments. Our founders wanted to prevent that and put the military firmly under the control of civilians, to mitigate the risk of a powerful military controlling or even taking over the government.

          After WW2, with the Cold War in full swing, the military became a favorite vehicle for delivering pork, as well. That, to me, is the real problem here. Our military is no longer about defense (sorry, "invading Iraq" which is 7,000 miles away is not "defending our country"). It is designed to evoke patriotism and support in the people so the wealthy can funnel lucrative contracts to favored military-industrial complex contractors. Essentially, stealing from the poor (taxpayers) to give to the rich (CEOs of companies like Boeing). Yes, those companies provide some value. However, they do so with gross inefficiency and well beyond the level required to defend U.S. soil. That is the problem that needs solving.

      • I think "military good, everything else bad" isn't a Trump thing, it's just a more general Republican thing.

    • by GrimSavant ( 5251917 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @11:14PM (#56119967)
      They want to part out the vital functions of a modern government, and let their donor class pocket as much of money as they can get on the back end. Don't be fooled into thinking that there is a genuine ideology motivating this, only a few of these guys are true believers, and quite a few of those are genuine radicals.

      Deficits are a good thing for them, if it helps them loot and destroy the government sooner. It's hard to effectively eliminate the necessary government operations and programs with a wide base of popular support unless you create a crisis first.
    • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @12:31AM (#56120241) Homepage
      This isn't exactly about "budget cutting". It's about cutting people who can possibly provide empirical evidence of global Warming from WITHIN the Government
    • The reality being that Trump wants more automation and less people overhead. Thus the 100 million supercomputing deal that was implemented last week per the Wapo.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Eliminate the NWs entirely, there are numerous private sources of weather forcasters so the government needs to step away from yet another unconstitutional government program.

    • by Art Challenor ( 2621733 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:03PM (#56119423)
      Someone needs to mod the parent as funny. I assume it has to be a joke unless there are really people out there who think that, say weather.com, the weather channel, etc. are actually forecasting. They almost all use the NWS forecast, they may add a little to it, but the heavy lifting is done by that government agency.
      • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:13PM (#56119479)

        Poe's Law is a harsh mistress.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:43PM (#56119625)

        Indeed. People have no clue how extremely difficult some things are. Fire these weather experts and you may just lose forecast accuracy for a few decades. And that may kill a lot of people and destroy a lot of property. Since mostly poor people will be hit, I am not surprises the present administration does not care.

        Reminds me of the utter stupidity when some Italian earthquake experts got dragged into court because they were wrong. So not more earthquake forecasts worth a damn in Italy. This is inherently a guessing game, but one worthwhile for society to be done well. Punish the experts when they guess wrong and the result is no more experts. Or rather they just move somewhere where the people actually understand the value they provide.

        There is a point in any civilization when it separates itself into those with a clue and those too dumb to survive. The smart ones leave when the morons take over. Come to think of it, I now know several US citizens that moved to Europe and do not want to go back.

        • "As of July, the NWS, which has a workforce of about 4,300, had 668 vacant positions, according to the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO), the union representing NWS employees. Overtime is common in many local offices since positions have gone unfilled for months and sometimes years. According to the GAO, about 5 percent of the agency's total positions were unfilled in 2006. That figure rose to about 11 percent in 2016"

          So they are already operating with many more vacancies than this cut

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Someone needs to mod the parent as funny. I assume it has to be a joke

        That's a bad assumption to make... much as many Americans believe that milk comes from a supermarket many believe that weather is forecast by the TV channels and apps they use. Never underestimate the power of stupidity.

  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @08:55PM (#56119363) Homepage

    ... that Trump wants to fire them in order to hold them responsible for the bad weather?

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @08:57PM (#56119373)
    Can any history nerds supply any information about a world power transforming itself into a 3rd world country as quickly as the US is? I know that other countries have fallen due to war, but have any other countries/societies/cultures fallen so far, so quickly, due to their own stupidity, as suddenly as the US?
    • by TigerPlish ( 174064 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:01PM (#56119401)

      have any other countries/societies/cultures fallen so far, so quickly, due to their own stupidity, as suddenly as the US?

      Na, our slide has been going on for quite a while now. See my sig.

      Yes, that far ago.

      Basically, after Apollo, it's been one long slide, only in the past 20 years has it been really accelerating and becoming quite apparent. And this guy now? The \ has turned into a |

      And it ain't just us, bub. It's the UK, too. And Japan had their moment of "oh... shit.." what.. 20 years ago and are *still* recovering?

    • Actually I truly believe Trump will #MAGA, in the same way that a good Alcoholic blackout can be transformative. He is the wake up call to the masses that says "holy shit, we need to take a serious look at what we have been doing, and change".
      • Actually I truly believe Trump will #MAGA, in the same way that a good Alcoholic blackout can be transformative.

        You'd just better hope you can find a good Claudius to undo all the damage done by your current Caligula.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Does not look like that to me. Does more look like people stubbornly voting for the one that promises the most, no matter how little gets delivered. They then will claim that they actually got what they wanted (despite strong evidence to the contrary) and continue with the self-destruction. It is called confirmation bias and it destroys societies. History is full of examples.

    • I believe Zimbabwe sets the gold standard [wikipedia.org] by having inflation increase form 48% in 1998 to 79 BILLION percent (yes, 79,000,000,000%) just 10 years later. I believe it was worse than the old Wiemar Republic inflation, and economic collapse.
      • I guess those who believe one Bitcoin will be worth one million U.S. dollars will see their dream come true after all, but not exactly as they thought it would.

    • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:45PM (#56119635) Homepage

      US is nowhere near a 3rd world nation, and a proposed plan (that will probably not pass) to fire a bunch of weathermen doesn't portend its slide into 3rd world status.

      US has the world's largest economy, 9 out of the 10 best universities in the world, the world's largest entertainment & cultural industry, the world's largest companies, half the world's Nobel Prizes last year, we've won the World Series for like 23 years straight....

      Do you find yourself watching Rocky 4 and rooting for Ivan Drago?

      • I'm curious what you think the 10 best universities in the world are.

        And the World Series line was a joke, right?

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @05:22AM (#56120815)

        I know right. We're number 1 in many things that people just don't appreciate.

        Number 1 in debt, Number 1 in citizen incarceration rate, number 1 in mass shootings, number 1 in climate change denial, number 1 in letting our infrastructure collapse under our feet, number 1 in letting poor people die due to lack of medical insurance, number 1 in bankrupting people who go to our universities.

        USA! USA! USA!

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      To be fair, the US was 2rd world in many regards (infrastructure, medical insurance, education system, legal system, ...) before. So the distance is not that big.

      However, look to the Brits for an example of how to ruin a country fast because of a small set of huge egos and a general inability to recognize an existential threat when it stares you in the face.

    • Well, the Soviet Union of course. But they seem to be on their way back.

  • LOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 )

    I can hear it already...

    "There is no global warming! You people must be wrong. Fake weather news!!!!!!"

  • Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @08:59PM (#56119383)

    Over 5000 employees, and over a billion dollar annual budget.
    248 jobs is a 5% reduction in staffing overall. $75 million is less that 7.5% of their budget. And these numbers were bandied about with the expectation that they'd be lowered after push back.
    When most of the work in forecasting is increasingly automated and computerized, it makes sense to trim the fat.

    But of course the labor union is going to get upset. That's what labor unions do when told the truth.

  • Perhaps in the future, the parable of futility will be President Trump, holding back climate change.

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:01PM (#56119403)
    It's not like any big things like emergency preparedness will be effected. In case the previous sentence did not come across properly, it was intended to be incredibly sarcastic. Weather forecasters help emergency management agencies and accurate forecasts are critical for helping to save lives and avert disasters.
  • by MiniMike ( 234881 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:01PM (#56119405)

    the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters

    Geez, who rained on his parade?

    • the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters

      Geez, who rained on his parade?

      It was his inauguration that got rained on. And then the stupid weathermen didn't back him up when he claimed he was so divinely blessed that the rain itself stood still until he took the oath of office [independent.co.uk].

  • Shouldn't they have seen it coming if they were any good at their jobs?

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:16PM (#56119489) Homepage
    ... their forecasts are FAKE NEWS. Sad. Listen, don't blame the hurricane only. Their were bad houses as well, ok? Bad things on both sides.
  • I've got an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:28PM (#56119555)
    Why not eliminate 247 white house staffing positions? The country saves money, the public doesn't notice anything different, we're good, right?

    Oops, I forgot the #1 rule of cutting government spending. You don't cut the waste where it's painless, you cut the meat where it hurts like hell. Then the politicians say "See! they don't like it when we cut spending!".
  • I've never witnessed a hurricane.

    A few tropical cyclones maybe, but never a hurricane.

  • Obviously these cuts were selected by who is expected to fight back the least, not how critical the work done there is. A sure way into disaster and one prepared by utter incompetents.

  • "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

    To government bureaucrats a decrease in their next years budget increase is a hideous cut that will kill millions.

    I say we compromise with a 10% across the board real cut to all non-defense, discretionary
    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      The NWS has nearly 5,000 employees, the 248 cuts proposed in the budget document represent less than 5% of the current NWS staff level. With 122 forecasting office across the nation, that works out to two fewer forecasters per office, and the NWS is currently 10% under-staffed (10% of staff positions open/in-filled at present time).

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @11:24PM (#56120003) Homepage Journal

    If "Trump" is proposing eliminating 248 NWS Forecasters, exactly how many are there currently?

    Apparently there are 122 NWS forecasting offices [wikipedia.org]

    So "Trump" is proposing the elimination of, on average, 2 forecasters per office - that doesn't seem so bad - but how many are there in those 122 forecasting offices?

    It seems the NWS may already have over 248 "vacancies" currently in it's organization [washingtonpost.com], so this may be nothing more than "Trump" adopting current staffing levels, rather than actually cutting people from eliminating positions.

    For what it's worth, it seems the NWS has nearly five thousand employees [washingtonpost.com], cutting 248 forecasters represents a 5% cut in staffing.

    You may have noticed I put the name Trump in quotes - that's because only a fool would imagine that a sitting President has anything to do with actual staffing levels in an organization, but in today's hyper-political environment, many tend to refer to any action undertaken by anyone in an administration to be the responsibility of the sitting President - oddly, just a few years ago no one said things like "Obama illegally blocked tax-exempt applications by conservative groups" or "Obama illegally encouraged/facilitated running guns into Mexico in a program called "Fast n' Furious"" and so on - I wonder why that is?

    • Selective memory (Score:5, Interesting)

      by emj ( 15659 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @03:44AM (#56120675) Journal

      no one said things like "Obama [**inser crazy thing**]"

      Sure they did, they said that quite a lot actually, there was a complete news network dedicated to come up with new crazy things to insert there. Sometimes it's correct that the administration of the current president is the instigator of some crazy things, but motsly it's as you say just things that comes with governing. In this case, I don't know, but budget cuts of $75 million is nothing to scoff at.

      I agree that we need to get away from this black and white kind of reporting it doesn't help either side in the long run. I do not know if you are a Trump supporter, but if you are then you better concentrate on the reporting in your own camp, it's better to discuss these things with people that trust your intentions. If you are not a Trump supporter then yey for you.

  • It's not like it is going to be doom and gloom for weather prediction. Most of those cuts should be in management, even though they have a $1B budget and the meteorologists are coming in at $28k/year salary, they're not exactly attracting talent.

    How about we start with the union reps, they are collecting $50/pay period and couldn't even negotiate a deal to prevent this or keep the service from becoming top-heavy. Then remove every manager that is not directly managing 15 or more employees.

  • by bkmoore ( 1910118 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @12:22AM (#56120213)

    I'm a professional pilot and this is a very bad idea for the safety of air travel. We rely on weather forecasting to make decisions about how much fuel to carry, what diverts to plan, and to make decisions if the flight can be safely conducted or not. The public benefits in many not so obvious ways from weather forecasting. Getting on an airplane with a good expectation that you will safely reach your destination, or not run out of fuel going to a weather divert is just one of them. The President should think of that next time he gets on Air Force One, or in his private 757. Making weather information freely and publicly available increases the safety for everyone in the air and on the ground.

    My political rant for today: I suspect there's a lobbying bonanza going on in the background and all of these privatization initiatives coming out of this administration and this congress have more to do with cronyism than the common good. When a Republic stops representing the common good, it is no longer a Republic, but a Plutocracy or an oligarchy. This is the bigger issue of our time, not collusion, not Trump, and not any of the other issues being touted in the media. Having an NWS is in the public's best interest.

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