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April 22, 2013

Fed cuts to mean NOAA furloughs

The $85 billion federal budget sequestration — a stopgap solution to the federal spending cut impasse between the White House and Democratic allies in Congress and conservative Republicans — will force a temporary and likely brief shutdown sometime after May of NOAA’s Northeast regional office, which employs about 200 people in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park.

Globally, NOAA has 12,500 employees, including hundreds involved in weather forecasting.

The furloughs and the dates have not been finalized, said Allison McHale, a special assistant to Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard. A NOAA source in Gloucester said the likely duration of the furloughs was four days. Who would be furloughed and whether some employees would be bypassed has not been announced, the source said.

“Continued fiscal uncertainty and tight budgets have required that many government agencies, including NOAA, make tough choices,” NOAA’s director of communications, Ciaran Clayton, said in an email Friday. “Unfortunately, after much serious deliberation, in order to help address current budget shortfalls, we are moving forward with union consultations in order to implement furloughs across the agency,”

“When looking at the budget situation for fiscal 2013, we faced some serious challenges. While we have implemented options to help offset this, including a hiring freeze, unfortunately, furloughs are necessary to help close the gaps,” she said. “NOAA has taken steps to ensure that this step will not impact life- and property-saving missions, or any other critical products or services the American public has come to rely upon.”

“Agencies are responsible for identifying the employees affected by administrative furloughs based on budget conditions, funding sources, mission priorities (including the need to perform emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property), and other mission-related factors,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in a March 8 memo to all employees of the department, which includes NOAA, and its subsidiary the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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