Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Today's Hearing on NOAA's FY 2012 Budget Request and Oversight

April 13, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller questions the panelists on the safety concerns of distracted driving.WASHINGTON, D.C.— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) touches the lives of every American every day. Businesses, families and communities turn to NOAA for weather forecasts, severe weather warnings, cutting-edge research, coastal management and ocean mapping to conduct business, protect property and save lives. 

Just last month, we saw the critical role NOAA played in providing life-saving information to officials in the U.S. and around the world following the tragic tsunami and earthquake in Japan. A string of NOAA smart buoys, anchored to the ocean floor, provided real-time warnings and information to protect communities. These buoys measure changes in pressure and calculate ocean height at specific locations in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. As a wave travels across the ocean, the buoys send information to NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Centers, which alert coastal communities of impending danger. The advance warnings help save lives.

In fiscal year 2010, NOAA satellites also provided key support in the rescue of more than 280 people in and around the United States. So whether it’s a tsunami, tornado, flood or hurricane, NOAA’s critical severe weather and natural hazards tracking and preparedness systems have simply proven to be indispensable to our nation.

That’s why I believe it’s critical to invest in NOAA. I’m disappointed by the President’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget for NOAA. I don’t think it goes far enough. One of the greatest challenges facing NOAA today is ensuring continuity of its weather satellites. Up to one third of our nation’s gross domestic product depends on accurate weather and climate information.

I am deeply concerned that without proper funding there will be a significant and dangerous gap in satellite coverage in the future. I’ve been told by NOAA that this gap will seriously degrade weather forecasting, placing lives, property and infrastructure at risk.

Congress needs to take a hard look at this budget and decide if this is a risk we are willing to take. I will be keeping a close eye on this issue to make sure that our taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

The President’s budget also proposes a budget-neutral reorganization that brings together existing climate research and monitoring services within NOAA under a single line office, the Climate Service. I support the creation of this office, the goal of which is to more efficiently provide reliable climate data, information and decision support services to the public and other federal agencies.

Dr. Lubchenco, I would like to welcome you today. I know that you have a very difficult task ahead of you as the Agency continues to work to save lives, protect property and conserve our oceans and coasts in a difficult budget environment. I look forward to hearing your testimony and how you plan to prioritize in these fiscally-constrained times.