NOAA kills agency-wide furlough proposal

Following the recent tornado outbreaks in the Plains, NOAA faced strong Congressional pressure not to furlough National Weather Service employees (as a cost savings measure in response to the budget sequester). The agency gave in late Friday.

In an email to staff, NOAA acting administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the agency was cancelling the furlough plan for the entire organization, which includes the National Weather Service.

The email, which was sent out at 11:39 p.m. eastern time Friday night, is provided in full below.

. . .

SUBJECT — Update: Sequestration and Furloughs

May 31, 2013

To All Employees,

The events over the past week, including more devastating tornadoes tonight in Oklahoma and Missouri, remind us how important every single employee within NOAA is to the health, safety, and well-being of this nation. I want to thank you all for continued commitment and dedication even in times of danger to your lives, families, and property. The work you do truly is important to each and every American from coast to coast.

That is precisely why I’m pleased to report that this evening the Department of Commerce transmitted to Congress a new sequestration plan. This was possible because of an increase in flexibility in how we use our funding within the organization.

Because of this new development we are cancelling our intent to furlough all 12,000 of our employees.

As you all know, sequestration required NOAA to make significant cuts to its budget for the remainder of this fiscal year. We had to make some painful decisions and choices – but all of those decisions were aimed at mitigating effects on our critical missions and services, and our employees.

For weeks, we have been working diligently to present a plan that represented the best way to ensure that we met these goals within the financial resources we have been given. When we initially received our appropriation in late March, some of our colleagues were facing up to 10 days of furlough, while others were facing up to 20. This was neither acceptable nor executable. Therefore, we looked for every other option possible to manage through these serious fiscal challenges, including the proposal we have been communicating with all of you this past month.

While this new plan allows us to avoid furloughs, sequestration remains an ongoing challenge. We must all continue to scrutinize every expense and prioritize our most critical missions and essential operations.

I know the past two months have been difficult and uncertain. Our number one priority during this time was to protect our mission and our employees. I’m glad that the Department was able to support this goal. I will continue to share information as I am able and encourage your Line and Staff Office Directors to do the same.

Thank you –

Kathy

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