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Chairmen Push for Explanation of Controversy at National Hurricane Center

Jul 13, 2007

July 12, 2007

The Honorable Conrad C. Lautenbacher
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
and NOAA Administrator
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.

Dear Administrator Lautenbacher:

In recent weeks, you and the Department of Commerce have taken several controversial steps at the Tropical Prediction Center (TPC), which appear to be in response to public statements by the Center’s new director that the failure of your agency to plan for the replacement of the QuikScat satellite would damage the Center’s ability to track and forecast hurricanes.” The most recent step involves placing TPC Director X. William Proenza on administrative leave until August 9, allegedly because his presence would “inhibit” the work of a management assessment team that you sent to review the Center’s operations. We understand that team is scheduled to report back to you on July 20.

Our Committees are deeply concerned with the turmoil that has engulfed the center and about several of your actions which may have partially created this volatile situation. These include your decision to send this management assessment team to the Center, an all-hands NHC staff meeting during official hours in which it is alleged that staff was pressured to sign on to what became a well-publicized letter of complaint about Dr. Proenza, and the actual removal- temporary or otherwise- of Dr. Proenza. This is particularly significant as the 2007 hurricane season has already begun. We have a number of questions relating to the process by which these decisions were reached and are writing to request relevant records (as defined in the Attachment to this letter). Therefore, please provide the following:

1. All records relating to the decision to transfer Dr. Proenza from his position in the National Weather Service (NWS) Southern Region Office to the position as Director of the Tropical Prediction Center of the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP);

Follow this link to read the complete letter to Admiral Lautenbacher»

110th Congress