As ThinkProgress and others have noted, the 2011 budget proposed by House Republicans “” as well as the three-week continuing resolution they just passed “” eliminates critical funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that will hamper the agency’s ability to track and respond to tsunamis. The agency said the cuts “will take away [our] ability to upgrade tsunami models and will put considerable stress on watchstanders ability to react.”
The cuts were roundly pilloried in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But last week, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) “” a Tea Party favorite and rigid ideologue on budget cuts “” said he still favors the reduction, and dismissed calls to restore the funding because “we often over-react” to natural disasters. TP has the story and video:
KING: The tsunami warning centers, it’s really “” the timing of that really puts attention on the subject matter. I don’t know that I would go back and look at that. I would ask people to come forward with the facts on this “” how badly do we need them and do the tragic events in Japan give us a different perspective. I would look at it from a different perspective. I don’t know I would at this point know say that I’d be willing to make that change. I think we often over-react to emergencies, especially natural disasters, before we assess the limit of the damage, and particularly with the nuclear part of this.
Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also defended the cuts, saying “All of us need to be tempered by the fact that we’ve got to stop spending money we don’t have.” This follows a similar pattern of other conservatives trying to ignore the tragic reality of the events in Japan in service of their political goals. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said yesterday that reaction to the nuclear power crisis there is “overblown,” and Bill O’Reilly said the “worldwide media is hyping the nuke situation in Japan a bit too much.”
— A TP cross-post.
JR: E&E News reported on Thursday, “GOP budget cuts could hurt tsunami, weather warning systems — Locke” (subs. req’d):
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke warned House Republicans today that their proposed budget cuts could jeopardize the operations of federal warning systems for storms, hurricanes and tsunamis.
The Republican-authored House appropriations bill, H.R. 1, which would fund the government through the rest of this fiscal year, would cut $454 million, or 16 percent, from 2010 levels from a Commerce Department account that funds weather, satellite and tsunami warning systems and fisheries and ocean research.
“Obviously, we’ll always try to prioritize, and we’ll try to be as efficient as possible,” Locke told the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee. “But you just can’t change the math.”
Locke said that if the tsunami program were kept intact, there would be cuts to other programs, such as hurricane forecasting….
Since a tsunami smashed Indonesia almost six years ago, NOAA has increased the number of detection buoys from six to 39 and expanded the early-warning system that Locke credited for NOAA’s ability to issue a warning about the Japanese tsunami 9 minutes after the earthquake last Friday.
But seven of the 39 buoys are now down for maintenance, Locke said. And the House spending bill puts their repair in doubt, he warned.
“Right now, we’re not even issuing contracts for the maintenance or upgrading of the buoys that are out of commission,” Locke said.
President Obama has requested $8.8 billion for the Commerce Department, which includes NOAA, in his 2012 proposed budget. That’s $822 million more than Congress approved for the agency in fiscal 2010. Much of that money would go toward a weather and environmental satellite program for NOAA’s National Weather Service that has already been delayed because of budget issues.
“There’s a public safety aspect to the Weather Service,” Locke said. “It’s like a police department or fire department of a local community. When you make cutbacks, there will be consequences. You can’t foresee those now, but you know that response times will be down. You’ll have less police officers on the street to respond to reports of crime.”
Locke’s warning comes as some lawmakers are pushing for expanded tsunami-detection systems.
“From what we saw in Japan and what we’ve seen in other parts of the world, it’s no longer a luxury,” New York Democrat Jose Serrano said. “It’s a necessity.”