Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:53 PM GMT on February 27, 2006
The National Weather Service plans to offer early retirement to up to 1000 of its 4700 employees in order to cut costs. The plan, called the Voluntary
Early Out Retirement Authority (VERA) Implementation Plan, is preliminary, and still needs approval from the Office of Personnel Management. Under the plan, 13 of the National Hurricane Center's 42 employees would be offered early retirement, and would potentially be replaced by lower-paid entry level meteorologists, in order to cut costs.
I contacted Dan Sobien, vice president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, to ask his opinion of the plan. While he supported the idea of offering early retirement to NWS workers, he expressed concern about offering the package to operational forecasters that issue warnings. These critical people could potentially be replaced by interns straight out of college. In particular, he pointed to the part of the proposal that states:
"NWS management will determine if the vacant position needs to be filled"
Sobien remarked, "My objection is using the word "if" when talking about operational positions". He added, "Even when they agree to fill a position, they are stating that 1) they can hold it open indefinitely, and 2) they can replace a lead forecaster or journeyman forecaster with an intern."
According to the Washington Post, Greg Romano, a Weather Service spokesman, predicted that only 50 NWS employees would take the early retirement. The Post article quoted Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)--a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Weather Service--as saying: "They better be very careful not to cut critical jobs. I think it is wrongheaded budgetary planning, and we're going to have to try to reverse it." Nelson was particularly upset that the NWS was "unbelievably" offering early-outs to 13 of the 42 employees at the Hurricane Center
after he had pushed Congress to add four positions to their staff to reduce the use of military personnel during hurricane season. I share these concerns, and hope the NWS amends the plans so that senior operational forecasters at the NHC and local NWS offices are offered early outs in a more intelligent fashion.
My next blog will be on Wednesday, concerning the International Environmental Data Rescue Organization. I will be travelling the for the next week, and will not be able to respond to user queries during that time.
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