Evidence in New IG Report Confirms NOAA Nominee Jacobs Unfit to Lead Agency

Statement by Andrew Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jun 30, 2020

WASHINGTON (June 29, 2020)— Multiple investigations into violations of the NOAA Scientific Integrity policy—including a new report from the Department of Commerce’s inspector general—demonstrate that Dr. Neil Jacobs, the current nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, should not be confirmed to serve as the agency’s Administrator, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. Dr. Rosenberg previously served as the deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service at NOAA. Dr. Rosenberg filed a complaint under the NOAA Scientific Integrity policy following the incident widely known as “SharpieGate” in which NOAA scientists were censored during a pending natural disaster in September 2019.

“We filed a complaint under the NOAA Scientific Integrity Policy after Neil Jacobs and other political appointees issued false statements about hurricane forecasting for political reasons. The agency’s investigation confirmed what was already clear: when the White House altered a hurricane forecast and threatened to punish any NOAA scientists who disagreed with the president, Neil Jacobs shamefully played politics and abandoned his own staff.

"Now, the Department of Commerce’s own inspector general has released a report showing how the department led a flawed process and failed to consider public safety.

"Jacobs’ actions put the public at risk and compromised the agency’s reputation for independence. Rather than admit his mistakes and try to rebuild trust, Jacobs now suggests he did nothing wrong. When presented with evidence of wrongdoing, his responses make clear that he does not recognize the chilling effect his actions had on the people who work for NOAA, nor does he express contrition for his role in this shameful chapter of the Agency’s history. Jacobs consistently misrepresents the scope and intent of the agency’s scientific integrity policy, which suggests he will continue to ignore it.

"The Commerce Department Inspector General found significant pressure from Commerce officials on NOAA to prioritize the president’s ego over public safety. Jacobs bowed to that pressure and remains unrepentant. He is not the leader NOAA needs.

"Any NOAA administrator should be able to stand up for the agency’s scientific independence. Jacobs’ actions eroded the public trust in the only agency responsible for providing scientific information to protect the public from the threats posed by extreme weather events and a changing climate. Jacobs is out of chances and the Senate should reject his nomination.”