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Critics of Ryan Budget Question Effect on Hurricane Preparedness

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has said that a gap in the satellite program would make it harder to predict severe weather.

With Hurricane Sandy making waves, proposed cuts to discretionary spending in the House GOP’s budget are getting a closer look for their effect on disaster preparedness.

“If this hurricane were to happen five years from now, and we had the Ryan budget, we would not be able to predict, with the accuracy we have today, where the hurricane would hit and the potential damage,” David Kendall of the think tank Third Way, said in an interview about the budget introduced by Republican vice presidential nominee and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.).

In March, Kendall wrote a memo released by the group that hues to a moderate, bipartisan line, projecting that the cuts in the Republican budget would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from sending up a new weather forecasting satellite in 2016.

In March 2011, NOAA officials warned that delays to the satellite upgrades would significantly degrade weather forecasting.

“We are now able to provide forecasting as far as out to seven days, whether it is for hurricanes, major snowstorms, and so forth, and especially over Alaska and other parts of the East Coast. Once that gap occurs, for however long it takes until the satellites are in orbit, our ability to accurately predict with confidence weather patterns, weather hurricanes or major snowstorms, will be reduced down to three to five days,” said then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, according to the Washington Post. NOAA is house in the Commerce Department.

However, the GOP’s budget only sets a top-line discretionary spending level for future years, meaning that any analyses of how the cuts would impact specific programs are based on assumptions of how the spending would be divvied out to specific accounts.
Still, the top-line cuts are so severe that “no program would escape unscathed,” Kendall said.

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Congress would make sure the federal government had the resources it needs for hurricane preparation.

"Republicans have always acted to ensure that FEMA and other agencies have the resources they need to prepare for natural disasters and we will continue to do so," the spokesman said.

 

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