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.
“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.
The starting salary for forecasters at the NWS is approximately $28,000 per year, the agency reports. After annual management reviews and training, potential incomes can range from $60,000- $100,000 per year.
The budget proposal recommendations are based on a 2016 report that said “there is a mismatch in some areas [of the Weather Service] between workforce and workload” and “that the current distribution of staff across the country can evolve.”
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.