Today there was formal Congressional Hearing on “Tracking the Storm at the National Hurricane Center.” Considerable attention has been focused on Bill Proenza, my successor as Director of the Tropical Prediction Center and NHC. Several people testified at the hearing, including Bill Proenza, the Director of NOAA Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, and the lead of an Assessment Team recently sent to the NHC.
The Assessment Team visited the TPC/NHC twice and offered to meet with any and all of the staff. The Assessment Team report states that “The short-term ability of the TPC to provide accurate and timely information was put at risk due to the TPC director’s discruptive conduct and the lack of trust between many staff and the director.”
The report further states “The negative work environment, exacerbated by the director, has had – and is likely to continue to have – a major deterious impact on the center’s ability to fulfil its mission, if he is allowed to return to his position.”
An immediate action recommended in the report: “The current TPC director should be reassigned and not be allowed to return to his position at the center.
This should be done due to his failure to demonstrate leadership within the TPC rather than due to his public statements about QuikSCAT satellite or NOAA leadership. A replacement should be recruited as soon as possible through a nation-wide, full and open competition.”
The report also identifies several internal NHC issues that will be resolved internally.
I have spoken with a few NHC staff members and they tell me that they really want to move beyond the current “Storm at the National Hurricane Center” and get back to focusing on their mission. The TPC/NHC has a very dedicated staff and I am highly confident that it will rise above the current flap and continue to issue the best forecasts possible.
I agree with some comments by committee members today – that we don’t want Congress to micro manage personnel. I would hope that Congress would focus more on what needs to be done to improve our Nation’s Hurricane Program. And whatever Congress does, I would hope that they will not forget to ask the forecasters what they need.