(WASHINGTON, D.C. Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) led a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) seeking an explanation of the hiring freeze at the National Weather Service (NWS), despite full funding and specific direction from Congress to fill hundreds of critical vacancies. 

The Members wrote: 

"We write to request your opinion whether the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Commerce has violated the Impoundment Control Act. Although Congress has given full funding to the NWS annually, along with specific and repeated direction that it use those funds to fill hundreds of critical vacancies, the agency has failed to meaningfully reduce the number of vacant positions."

The Members continued:

"As the NWS's most recent budget request demonstrates, it appears that the NWS has affirmatively decided not to backfill its vacancies for policy reasons, despite clear Congressional disapproval and direction to utilize the funding it has been granted to fully staff the agency. As the Acting Comptroller General found in the case of another Impoundment Control Act violation involving the Department of Defense, this 'is an attempt [by the agency] to replace the policy decision already made by the Congress with its own.' A hiring freeze constitutes an impoundment when Congress has directed an agency to use appropriated funds to fill positions. Even if the NWS believed that personnel reductions could be justified as cost savings measure, the plan would still require special messages under the Impoundment Control Act." 

Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08), Conor  Lamb (P-17), and Dan Lipinski (IL-03) also signed the letter. A copy of the signed letter is available here.