Trump Administration Science Leadership Roles Move Forward

2017-11-30T15:31:42+00:00 October 16, 2017|
Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, has been nominated to lead the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Credit: Diane Bondareff/ AP Images)

(Click to enlarge)Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, has been nominated to lead the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Credit: Diane Bondareff/ AP Images)

What It Was

On Wednesday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Mr. Barry Myers (CEO, AccuWeather) to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Several other science and technology nominations and confirmations of interest to the ocean science community also occurred.

Why It Matters

As our nation recovers from extreme weather events from coast to coast, the importance of NOAA to public safety cannot be understated. The administrator role has been vacant months; filling it and other leadership positions will allow the agency to better fulfill its mission of science, service and stewardship Science leadership across the federal family is critical to improving not only public safety but our national and economic security as well.

Key Points

For the first time since the 1981, a non-scientist could run the nation’s premier ocean science and weather agency. The nomination has led to mixed opinions among members of Congress, experts, and the public.

Some have expressed fears that Mr. Myers could alter NOAA’s focus, quality, and integrity. Most concerning to those opposing the nomination is the conflict of interest between his weather forecasting business (AccuWeather), including his 2005 support of a bill that would have restricted public access to National Weather Service forecasts, and NOAA’s mission of providing a public service.

Worry about his lack of scientific expertise at an agency grounded in science has been on many people’s minds, although some have highlighted his business acumen as being important, since NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce. Others have drawn attention to the key role of other scientists in leadership roles at the agency, including Deputy Administrator Rear Admiral (Ret.) Timothy Gallaudet.

Last week, Kathleen Hartnett White (Director, Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation) was nominated to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. Ms. Hartnett White has stated that humans’ contribution to climate change is “not likely to be very much.”

The Senate confirmed nominations of Dr. Walter Copan  to be Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Mr. Bruce Walker to be Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Quotable

“If confirmed, Mr. Myers will join Admiral Gallaudet at the helm of NOAA. This leadership team will bring fresh perspectives to the agency whose mission is to understand, predict, and share information about changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts and to manage and conserve our nation’s vast coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. NOAA supports our nation’s healthy and resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems through their robust science, management, and technology portfolio, which includes our ocean and coasts, the weather and climate enterprise, education, fisheries management, and the research and tools (e.g., satellites, ships, buoys, underwater gliders, high performance computing, and modelling) needed to observe and forecast our changing environment. Mr. Myers’ knowledge of the weather and climate enterprise will be complemented by Admiral Gallaudet’s extensive scientific and operational expertise in oceanography and meteorology. Their combined proficiency extends across the full spectrum of NOAA’s important missions from the deepest depths of the ocean to the heights of the atmosphere.” – Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jon White (President and CEO, Consortium for Ocean Leadership)

“Mr. Myers will have to work very hard to persuade me that he will run NOAA for the public good. [H]e will also need to explain why his service as NOAA administrator will not violate conflict of interest rules and regulation.” – Senator Brian Schatz (HI)

“[I]n an administration that places high value on business acumen, Barry brings a strong track record in growing one of the most successful companies in the weather industry.” Mr. Ray Ban (Co-chair, Weather Coalition)

“The new NOAA administrator must be a strong champion for and steward of all of NOAA — its integrated mission of science, services, and stewardship. This means nurturing its research, climate, weather, ships and planes, satellites, ocean and coasts, fisheries, sanctuaries, trust resources, and other units. If some of these units wither, the ability of the others to function well is compromised. Strong science underpins both the service and the stewardship functions.” – Dr. Jane Lubchenco (Former administrator (2009-2013), NOAA)

Next Steps

Confirmation hearings for Mr. Myers and Ms.  Hartnett White have yet to be scheduled.

Find Out More

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership