(July 14, 2023) Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act for FY 24. The NWS Operations Research and Facilities funding remained at the FY 23 levels as expected (actually there was an addition of $ 1 million in the line for Science and Technology Integration). The amount appropriated for NWS facilities and repairs was $10 million (versus $13.5 million last year). The accompanying report contained this language on staffing:
NWS Staffing.—The Committee recognizes and appreciates NWS’s commitment and efforts-to-date to fill vacancies, especially for weather forecast personnel. However, less than 50 percent of Weather Forecast Offices [WFO] are ideally staffed, and the Committee continues to be concerned with the number of NWS employee vacancies given the critical nature the NWS mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens. The Committee expects NOAA to continue the agency focus on expeditiously increasing NWS staffing, particularly at WFOs.
Similarly, other funding for our other bargaining units - OSPO at NESDIS, Executive Leadership (NOAA OGC), AOC, OAR, also remained at the FY 23 level. It appears that the NWS is not the only NOAA line office with severe staffing issues. The report contains this language about staffing at OAR:
Staffing Levels.—The Committee is concerned that as of the second quarter of fiscal year 2023, OAR has a vacancy rate of nearly 18 percent, which is inhibiting the critical scientific endeavors of the agency. OAR is directed to continue its focus on improving workforce management, particularly filling extended vacancies with highly-qualified candidates.
These flat funding levels are consistent with the Debt Ceiling agreement. As you may have read, the House leadership and Appropriations Committee are drafting bills that would fund non-defense agencies at levels lower than what was agreed to in the Debt Ceiling negotiations.