Empty Government, Part 4

A series of posts on the positions yet to be filled in the Trump Administration. No president has left this many positions vacant for this long. National news outlets are reporting on the number and names of these positions, but without context about the jobs they are supposed to do, those counts do not illustrate the serious consequences invited by an administration so behind in hiring.

President Trump has yet to nominate someone to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA performs a variety of vital functions, many of which will be familiar. One function, providing data used to study climate change — may (unfortunately) prime Democrats and Republicans to form strong opinions. But the agency provides daily weather projections, and as the image above suggests, they forecast the path and severity of hurricanes and tropical storms.

Recall that in 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed around 1,300 people and was linked to about $108 billion in damage. NOAA originally believed the storm would turn towards Florida, meaning that the hurricane warnings in Louisiana and on the Mississippi coast went out on August 26, two days before landfall. There were, of course, a variety of governmental missteps in advance of Katrina that contributed to the disaster. I mention NOAA here to make a basic point: investments in NOAA means improving measurement and forecasting of storms. That means knowing earlier — and potentially, saving lives. In addition, the data they make publicly available is critical for anyone (including those in the private sector) who plan for severe storms (think civil engineers and policymakers in local government).

For presidents, hiring people is one way to express priorities. This seems like a good one.


Note: the source of the image is NOAA. Details can be found here.


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