Opening Statement of Ranking Member Serrano at CJS Hearing on NOAA FY2019 Budget Request
Good morning, and thank you, Chairman Culberson.
I would also like to join you in welcoming our guest this morning, Admiral Tim Gallaudet, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and current Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. I look forward to your testimony before our subcommittee as we discuss NOAA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal and learn more about the vital work our friends are doing as we speak.
I believe NOAA is one of the most underrated agencies under the jurisdiction of this subcommittee. The invaluable work and research that NOAA quietly conducts each year has a profound impact on our national economy and way of life, yet so many Americans do not even realize it. NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes to our climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. The data and information it collects is used by businesses, other federal government agencies, and state and local governments to help them make informed decisions that affect consumers and the public at large. NOAA also protects and manages our nation’s oceans and marine resources that make up a large part of the beautiful American landscape.
For Fiscal Year 2019, NOAA is requesting just over $4.5 billion, which represents more than a $1.1 billion reduction from the FY 2017 level. Coastal Zone Management Grants, climate and ocean research, National Marine Sanctuaries, environmental literacy programs, fish catch share and stock recovery programs, the National Sea Grant program, and countless others will see drastic cuts, or complete elimination, if this budget request is adopted. Even the National Weather Service operating budget will see a cut of nearly $45 million. It is as though this Administration sees little value in the work conducted by the countless scientists and researchers at NOAA.
With the damage and devastation to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and others during the 2017 hurricane season, now is not the time to cut NOAA’s budget by more than a billion dollars. Even NOAA acknowledged that the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was “record-breaking” and the devastation it caused was “unprecedented.” If that is true, why are we cutting this agency’s budget so drastically? This shortsighted approach to saving money will only result in potentially catastrophic consequences further down the road. I do not say this lightly, but in the long term, we will be paying an even higher price for these cuts in terms of money and lives lost. This makes no sense to me.
Our storms are getting stronger. Our oceans are getting warmer and experiencing more pollution. Our climate is changing rapidly, and millions of lives hang in the balance. I believe we should be making stronger investments in NOAA, so we can get a better understanding of these atmospheric changes and address the growing national security and economic challenges we face as a result. Therefore, I cannot support this Administration’s budget request for NOAA as it represents a clear abdication of the agency’s core mission.
I am hopeful that my colleagues on this subcommittee can come together and spare this agency and its invaluable work once again. We must look at the larger picture here. If we do not get serious about the threat of climate change and work to mitigate it through research, data collection, and collaboration, we will be putting nearly half of the American population – especially those who live along the Nation’s coastlines – at grave risk.
Thank you for joining us this morning, Admiral Gallaudet. I look forward to hearing your testimony about the great work that our scientists and researchers are doing at NOAA. I also look forward to working with my colleagues on this subcommittee to draft a CJS Appropriations bill that we can all be proud of this year.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990.