National Weather Service Faces Cuts
38 Alaskan Coastal Communities Receive Weather Warnings
ALASKA - It's well known how important the National Weather Service (NWS) is to Alaska.
“Just like the west coast storm in November, every one of those 38 communities along the coast received specialized warnings from the weather service,“ said John Madden, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Alaska.
The National Weather Service Employees Organization said the $39 million cut in funding could mean information technology specialists with the weather service will lose their jobs.
"[Across the nation] the reduction is calling for taking the 122 [jobs] down to 24, so it's an 80 percent cut in the technical knowledge and ability to keep warnings and watches going out on time, “ said Phil Dutton, Vice Chair of the Regional NWS Employees Association.
Senator Lisa Murkowski said there is very little settled in the president's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, including the fate of the budget itself.
“Last year, the president's budget failed in the Senate 97 to 0,” said Murkowski. “But I will take a very close look at every proposed budgets' impact on Alaska, knowing that every American needs to prepare to tighten their belt in the near term.”
It will take time before it’s clear how NWS cuts will affect jobs in Alaska, but there are at least three jobs on the line and the union representing weather service employees said the information technology positions are critical to emergency response.
"The forecaster will create the warning product and it goes through communication lines and other computers and that whole pathway is dependent on it working and if it doesn't it's the job of the Information Technology Officers to fix it and get it working as fast as possible," said Phil Dutton of NWS Employees Association.
Alaska’s Department of Emergency Management is especially reliant on the NWS and officials said they are only concerned that the NWS can perform its vital duties.
"Well we are concerned with the outcome, and the outcome is the observations leading to alerts, and warnings and forecasts that can be put into action by the local communities anything that we can do to further that we will support," said John Madden, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Alaska.
The president's 2013 budget requests a total of $972.2 million for the NWS.