Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Memo reveals Proenza's days were numbered

Oh the games we play at NOAA/NHC. Here we have another article on Bill Proenza the former Director of the National Hurricane Center. So NOAA can't make up its mind about whether or not Proenza was removed because of his public statements about a critical satellite or because some of the children or staff at the NHC did not like his leadership style.

Lets just say that it remains to be seen whether some of the children ..eh..staff at the NHC who have now lowered the Atlantic Hurricane threat to some13 to 16 named hurricanes can actually live up to their statements.

Seems to me that if there is any question of lowered public confidence its in predicting hurricanes by some of the same children who complained about Proenza's public statements. Wonder if any of them will get relocated if those 13 to 16 named storms don't appear? Though I am now tracking Tropical Depression Four (TD4), think if these 13-16 storms don't develop, it time for some staff changes at the NHC....

Geez we need to grow up...


Memo reveals Proenza's days were numbered

Maya Bell and Mark K. Matthews

Sentinel Staff Writers

August 7, 2007

Days before Bill Proenza's bosses dispatched a team to the National Hurricane Center to evaluate his brief but controversial tenure as director, he already was on notice he would be demoted to an obscure office of the National Weather Service, an internal memo released Monday shows.

The main reason for the transfer, the memo said, was Proenza's repeated misrepresentations to the media about the consequences of losing the aging QuikSCAT satellite.

Two congressmen, whose subcommittees obtained the memo while investigating Proenza's abrupt ouster, suggest the two-page document supports the National Weather Service veteran's contention that he was placed on paid leave July 9 in retaliation for criticizing his superiors at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rather than for leadership flaws documented by the assessment team.

Citing the memo, U.S. Reps. Brad Miller, D-N.C., and Nick Lampson, D-Texas, wrote to NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher last week, saying Proenza was being treated unfairly. They also said that if NOAA intends to permanently remove Proenza from the hurricane center, he should be returned to his former $150,000-a-year job as the director of the 10-state southern region of the National Weather Service.

'Extremely talented'

"We don't want this extremely talented public employee consigned to NOAA's backwaters because he spoke publicly about the potential loss of a critical satellite," Lampson said in a statement.

An NOAA spokesman would not comment. Proenza's attorneys, who are considering filing a lawsuit alleging retaliation under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act, could not be reached.

The previously undisclosed memo was from Mary Glackin, acting director of the National Weather Service, and Louis Uccellini, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. Though the memo is undated, it was obviously written on or before June 22, the date the memo says Proenza was being "detailed immediately out" of the director's job in the Miami center and reassigned to NOAA's Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services in Camp Springs, Md.

In the memo, Glackin and Uccellini cited complaints from hurricane-center staffers that Proenza had misrepresented them in the media, causing "disarray and distraction" since he assumed the director's job in January. But they made clear that it was Proenza's comments about QuikSCAT that doomed him. He had told members of Congress that the loss of the aging satellite, already several years past its expected lifespan, would make storm-track forecasts as much as 16 percent less accurate.

"This action results from our lack of confidence in your ability to fulfill the responsibilities of your position," the memo said. "You have repeatedly misrepresented facts to the press regarding the impact of the loss of QuikSCAT data resulting in widespread media questioning our ability to deliver effective hurricane services."

Veteran forecasters said Proenza, by exaggerating the importance of QuikSCAT, had undermined the center's credibility and the public's faith in their forecasts. They said the satellite is a useful tool but they rely far more on data collected from reconnaissance aircraft to track approaching storms.

Why Proenza was still on the job when the five-member inquiry team showed up July 2 is unclear. But three days later, half of the center's staffers issued a statement calling for his immediate ouster. On July 9, Lautenbacher put him on paid leave.

'Leadership' failure

But the NOAA director, testifying before both Miller's and Lampson's subcommittees on July 19, denied that Proenza's QuikSCAT comments were responsible for his suspension. Instead, he cited the inquiry team's recommendation that Proenza be moved "due to his failure to demonstrate leadership" and not for "his public statements about the QuikSCAT satellite or NOAA leadership."

According to the NOAA Web site, the Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services oversees hydrometeorological and climate services and the design and implementation of future products and services. Its training chief "ensures NWS staff receives the training required to attain/maintain proficiency in providing accurate and timely forecasts and warnings to the public." The prior training chief was to have retired June 30.

Maya Bell, who reported from Miami, can be reached at mbell@orlandosentinel.com or 305-810-5003. Mark K. Matthews, who reported from Washington, can be reached at mmatthews@tribune.com or 202-824-8222.

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