Senate Should Confirm Barry Myers to Lead NOAA

Senate Should Confirm Barry Myers to Lead NOAA
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for AccuWeather
Senate Should Confirm Barry Myers to Lead NOAA
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for AccuWeather
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NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – needs its leader! President Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, to the post in mid-October. The Senate Commerce Committee has twice advanced Myers’ nomination to the full Senate. All that’s needed to fill this important job is a majority vote on the Senate floor, which both Democrats and Republicans expect to happen. Unfortunately, partisan politics keeps getting in the way, delaying the vote.

Why is moving this along important? The Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane season begins June 1; tornado season has already started. In the first few days of May alone, 18 tornadoes were reported in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. In addition, 117 severe storms ravaged the Plains. The experienced professionals at NOAA can deal with the daily challenges of severe weather. But bigger decisions to carry out congressionally mandated improvements in hurricane and tornado forecasting require the authority of a Senate-confirmed nominee. As does putting a new hurricane-hunter plane into operation and prioritizing seasonal forecasts for farmers and ranchers. The nation also has a huge seafood trade imbalance that needs the attention of top NOAA leadership.

Few people are as qualified to head NOAA as Barry Myers (pictured, at center). He has successfully headed a large, complex, science-based organization that is one of the country’s – and the world’s – leading creators and distributors of weather forecasts, data and scientific information. In other words, Myers is a veteran executive in the areas in which NOAA operates.

Myers also has worked for more than 30 years to make NOAA a better, stronger and more transparent organization. He helped establish the American Weather Enterprise, which combines the resources of NOAA, academic and research institutions, and America’s private-sector weather companies. The federal government works with industry leaders including Myers to distribute weather data free of charge to the American people. In fact, Myers has been repeatedly honored for helping to bring to the nation these major advancements, making the U.S. the envy of the world in how it provides weather information to its citizens.

Senate offices have received more than 60 letters from individuals and organizations supporting his confirmation, including strong backing from the past four leaders of the U. S. National Weather Service who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. In addition, the seafood industry has overwhelmingly advocated his confirmation with letters of support from seafood processors and others in the fisheries industry ranging from ship captains to sport fishermen.  

Members of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities consider Myers’ experience at the helm of a family-based business to be a special asset for his role at NOAA. They recognize this connection as a skill set no other leader of NOAA has had. Many American seafood-harvesting and processing companies are multi-generational, family-based businesses and his understanding of them is unique. While individuals with impressive scientific credentials have led NOAA in the past, the coalition believes Myers brings to the agency much-needed leadership, vision and managerial skills.

Also, as a recognized leader in the sciences, Myers has demonstrated respect for quality-tested science when making decisions related to all areas of the agencies’ responsibilities, including the nation’s fisheries, weather, oceanographic and climate challenges.

Myers worked closely with lawmakers to help secure enactment of last year’s Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. The American Meteorological Society conferred its highest award for Excellence in Meteorology on him. He also has demonstrated a deep knowledge about NOAA and is committed to making the agency the best it can be, second to none in the world.

Prompt confirmation of Myers will benefit the public and the U.S. economy in the days, weeks and months ahead by solidifying the NOAA leadership team. With the unprecedented threat of catastrophic storms, the agency’s mission – protecting life and property and expanding American economic competitiveness – is on the line. The Senate should quickly confirm Barry Myers as NOAA administrator. 

Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. VADM USN (ret.), CEO of GeoOptics, is a former under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of NOAA.

Robert Vanasse is executive director of the National Coalition for Fishing Communities.

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