The agency whose satellite photographs alert Coast residents of approaching hurricanes could see deep budget cuts, putting jobs and programs in South Mississippi in jeopardy.
The Washington Post reports it obtained a four-page budget memo which shows the Trump administration is seeking to cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget by 17 percent.
Even deeper cuts are proposed for fiscal year 2018, which starts Oct. 1, for NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. It would lose $126 million, or 26 percent of its funds under the current budget. NOAA’s satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, the report says.
These programs have staff working at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, along with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Weather Service, which both face 5 percent cuts.
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The National Data Buoy Center, headquartered at Stennis under the National Weather Service, maintains a network of buoys that serve all U.S. coastal states and territories. They are used by the weather service supercomputers to produce computer-generated model forecasts of the atmosphere and climate used by recreational boaters, commercial interests and the U.S. military. The NDBC also is responsible for tsunami stations around the world.
NOAA has been at Stennis since the early 1970s and employs more than 250 federal employees and contractors, according to the NOAA website.
These early numbers frequently change during budget negotiations between the federal agency and the White House, and later between Congress and the administration, the article says. The budget figures cited by the Washington Post are part of the Office of Management and Budget’s “passback” document, and are a key part of the annual budget process during which the administration instructs agencies to draw up detailed budgets for submission to Congress.
NOAA representatives at Stennis declined comment on the budget report.
Many of these cuts are for agencies that study climate change. The budget proposal would eliminate the $73 million Sea Grant program that supports coastal research through 33 university programs, among them the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State, Jackson State and University of Mississippi.
The website NOAA In Your State gives an idea of how far-reaching NOAA programs are in South Mississippi. NOAA’s Atmospheric Mercury Monitoring Network is at the Grand Bay Reserve in Moss Point. The National Seafood Inspection Laboratory is in Pascagoula. The National Ocean Service National Water Level Observation Network has tide stations in Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and the Bay Waveland Yacht Club, and these stations have been hardened to deliver real-time storm tide data during severe coastal events.
National Marine Fisheries Service Restoration Center works with private and public partners in the state to restore tidal marshes and oyster reefs and remove marine debris. NOAA programs help recover stranded dolphins and turtles and respond to oil and hazardous chemical spills, such as Deepwater Horizon.
One of four major locations of the the National Centers for Environmental Information is at Stennis as is the National Coastal Data Development Center.
NOAA also has its own fleet of Hurricane Hunters, which could be affected by the budget cuts, but the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi isn’t expected to feel any impact.