While the U.S. Senate confirmed a new Office of Science and Technology Director, they failed to confirm a Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). President Trump nominated AccuWeather CEO Barry Lee Meyers to the post in October 2017. As the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, the role serves as the Administrator to NOAA and agencies like the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center. The position has been vacant for more than a year when President Obama’s Administrator, Benjamin Friedman, left.
Since October 25, 2017, Timothy Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, has served as acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the US Department of Commerce and NOAA’s interim administrator.
Some Senators expressed concern that the owner of a large private weather forecasting and reporting company would serve at the helm of the government agency. Concerns were also expressed by others in the science community.
“The many and clear conflicts of interest give me grave concerns about whether this nominee will truly serve the public’s interests,” said Kathryn Sullivan, a retired NASA astronaut and former chief scientist at NOAA who served as the agency’s administrator in the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. “It strains credulity.”
Another Obama administration worker also expressed concern. Jane Lubchenco, an environmental scientist who served as the agency’s administrator in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, said she strongly opposes the nomination because of “his egregious conflicts of interest,” “his lack of scientific training,” and his “aggressive and sustained actions to undermine” the National Weather Service.
In the past, Meyers has said that the National Weather Service should focus on data collection and forecast modeling and not invest time and effort in communicating to the public, such as sharing content and weather warnings in social media.
With a Republican majority in the Senate, it is likely Meyers will be renominated. To make that process smoother, on Friday, Meyers sold all of his interest in AccuWeather and its subsidiaries and affiliates.
Barry Myers has been part of the AccuWeather leadership for nearly 30 years, first as executive vice president and general counsel, before becoming CEO in 2007. He is the brother of AccuWeather founder, president and chairman Joel Myers.
“Barry has served AccuWeather expertly, helping me guide it from an idea at my kitchen table to the successful global company it is today,” Joel Myers said in a statement. “I am very grateful for his significant contributions to AccuWeather, including his leadership, ideas, business acumen and his commitment to our global expansion. His presence will be missed. As his brother and the person who has known him longer than anyone else, I can attest to his vast knowledge and believe he would be a terrific asset in service to our country.”
AccuWeather said, “In accordance with the ethics pledge from Myers to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and in his testimony and comments made to the U.S. Senate, he has fulfilled his commitment to fully divest himself of AccuWeather and of any and all related interests.”