Trump Administration Takes Aim at Nation’s Ocean Arm

Release of the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 federal budget reinforces fears that our nation’s ocean arm will experience deep cuts, putting at risk services and products that affect an estimated one-third of the country’s gross domestic product and save American lives.

First reported by The Washington Post, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is slated to take the hit for most of the 16 percent cut to the Department of Commerce, with some divisions rumored to be slashed by more than 20 percent and programs that support coastal and ocean management, research, and education eliminated entirely.

Below are some of the programs that have been specifically proposed for deep cuts or elimination.

First up, an anticipated 22 percent budget cut to NOAA’s satellite program which helps track hurricane landfalls, tornadoes, and severe storms as well as support aviation and ocean navigation decisions, keeping airline passengers, fishermen, shippers and boaters safe.  

Trump Watch: NRDC tracks the Trump administration’s assaults on the environment and health

I vividly recall watching TV images of swirling clouds of rain and wind during Superstorm Sandy, praying my friends and family’s homes would emerge unscathed. The Weather Channel doesn’t make predictions about storms like Sandy alone―TV channels and businesses rely in part on NOAA. Without NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellite data factored in, a 5-day model simulation showed Superstorm Sandy moving harmlessly out to sea. Factoring in NOAA satellite data allowed our region more time to prepare. Simply put, this service saves lives.

Impacts to satellite data will directly affect researchers developing climate forecasts that provide perspective on how what we’re seeing today compares to the past. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research helps enable better forecasts and earlier warnings for natural disasters―it’s looking at a 26 percent cut.

NOAA’s role as a voice and guide for America’s ocean and Great Lakes communities is also under attack. Critical coastal programs targeted for elimination include:

  • NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Program which funds twenty-nine states and five territories to protect coastal water quality and beach access, and ensure coastal habitats can buffer homes and businesses from storms, sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and stay open for tourists and residents to enjoy. State coastal zone managers help minimize risks from flooding, erosion, and sea level rise and check that industrial activities proposed offshore, from sand mining to rebuild beaches to offshore wind energy development, are in line with what residents want for their local waters.
  • Funding through NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grants to empower states and local governments to identify and tackle vulnerabilities, such as coastal flooding and ocean acidification, in the manner that makes the most sense at the local level.
  • NOAA’s “small but mighty” Sea Grant Program which funds researchers at thirty-three university programs to work with local businesses and stakeholders to solve on-the-ground challenges like reducing the Great Lakes’ nutrient pollution.
  • The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, designed to protect and study some of the most biologically productive places on the planet from the Hudson River to San Francisco Bay.

These successful programs are zeroed out in the budget because they are a “lower priority.” For the 124 million people who call our ocean and Great Lakes coasts home, these programs are not a lower priority. 

NOAA keeps Americans safe, our economy strong, and our oceans healthy; the proposed cuts would have serious repercussions in the way America runs. “These cuts are ill-timed to meet the growing demand for NOAA’s services and the needs of the America people,” said Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, U.S. Navy (Retired), member of the Joint Initiative Leadership Council and NOAA Administrator under President George W. Bush. In fact, a recent bi-partisan report by the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative called on the Trump Administration and Congress to increase investment in ocean science and research, and help communities prepare for environmental change.

NOAA is our environmental intelligence agency. NRDC urges Congressional leaders to reject the NOAA budget cuts.

About the Authors

Alison Chase

Senior Policy Analyst, Oceans Division, Nature Program

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