Next week is the beginning of hurricane season, but a storm is already raging.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are the federal geeks that make the predictions about the weather. The month of May is their “showtime”, when their annual hurricane forecast is released; the 2007 forecast calls for a nasty summer, with up to 10 Hurricanes expected, and up to 5 of those reaching Category Three or greater. This has made a lot of people understandably jumpy all across the Gulf Coast, over at FEMA, and right up Pennsylvania Avenue.
All of which makes it a great moment for a little marketing controversy. In this year’s NOAA budget is a $4Million line item earmarked for marketing NOAA’s 200th anniversary. The stated goal is to help people understand what NOAA is and what it does. Pretty innocuous stuff, until Bill Proenza opened his mouth. He’s the new director of the National Hurricane Center (a division of NOAA). On May 17th, he complained to the Miami Herald that hurricane research is badly under-funded and that a key weather satellite was in danger of failing. And that the marketing program was shameless self-promotion and a waste of federal dollars.
The timing was perfect: as the NOAA guys stepped to the podium to give their 2007 prediction, they had to explain why their key hurricane guy can’t get the funding he needs to do his job. They weren’t pleased, and a NOAA spokesman blasted Proenza, saying he was merely pissed off that part of the marketing plan was to rename his department the “NOAA National Hurricane Center.” In other words, it’s not about the budget, it’s just semantics.
Then why is the National Weather Center (another division of NOAA) also in an uproar? Its directors, David Johnson and John Jones, resigned on May 19 amid implications that they too have complained about budget cuts in their department. Their credentials are impeccable, one is an Air Force Brigadier General and the other has served the fed for 35 years. So, not surprisingly, both NOAA and Weather Center spokesmen have stated the resignations are “completely unrelated” to the Proenza debacle. Sure.
Hey, enjoy your day at the beach this Memorial Day. Relax in the knowledge that your government is spending your tax dollars wisely, and keeping you safe.
(Insert scary wind and slapping shutters noises here.)