Before Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the National Weather Service was hit by Hurricane Donald

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

The last two months have pointed up the critical nature of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among other things, the NOAA includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center—services that together cost the average American about $3 a year, but most would agree are worth far more.

But, winter came early in 2017 as Donald Trump put a freeze on agencies.

Ahead of what would turn out to be a potentially record-breaking hurricane season, the National Weather Service had 216 vacant positions it could not fill due to a government-wide hiring freeze imposed by the Trump administration, according to a recently released document. …

Staffing had declined so much that the Government Accountability Office wrote in May that employees were challenged in their ability “to complete key tasks.”

Crippling a vital service may seem like a casualty of a freeze that was badly planned and lacked the detail to separate the necessary from the merely nice to have. It’s not. The whole purpose of a non-discriminate freeze like the one deployed by Trump is that it does hurt. It does impact vital services.

Trump’s government freeze is a kind of mini-shutdown. It has the advantage, for the Republicans, of making the government appear least competent … by making the government less competent. 

And it’s noticeable. Just as a good protest is one that many, at least at first, find irritating, a good old-fashioned Republican effort to downsize government is one that starts by making irritating, even deadly, cuts in government services.

Trump’s freeze has placed gaps in every agency. It’s a tactic he’s supplemented by failing to even nominate people for many key positions.

Any new administration has to fill roughly 4,000 positions across the government, more than 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. While no administration can accomplish that task in 200 days, the nonprofit good-government group Partnership for Public Service recommends having the most important 300-400 confirmed by August recess.

Trump hasn’t come close.