GOP Budget Cuts Target Tsunami Warning Center


A killer tsunami has devastated Japan and is now threatening Hawaii and the Pacific Coast of the US. But just last month, Republicans voted to gut funding for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center—a cut that would cripple the National Weather Service’s ability to issue warnings about such disasters. 

In February, the union representing the National Weather Service warned that the Republican cuts could place the residents of Hawaii in mortal danger. “People could die… It could be serious,” Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, told Hawaii’s Star Advertiser. The House budget includes a 28 percent cut to the National Weather Service that would result in staffing cutbacks to Hawaii’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which monitors potential tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. 

The Obama administration is threatening to veto the cut, and Congressional Democrats have called the reduction a “reckless” means of forwarding a political agenda. “Those who claim that global warming is a myth find the hard data produced by such monitoring inconvenient,” Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told the Star Advertiser. The cutback to the tsunami warning center also recalls Gov. Bobby Jindal’s mockery of federal money for volcano monitoring back in 2009—just months before a volcano eruption in Iceland wreaked havoc on Europe. 

Similarly, Japan’s tsunami may serve as a wake-up call to Congress’ budget-slashing legislators. As the National Weather Service’s union president Dan Sobien warned last month: “In the next hurricane, flood, tornado or wildfire, lives will be lost and people will ask what went wrong. Congress’ cuts and the devastation to the well-being of our nation’s citizens are dangerously wrong.”

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.