Sunday, February 17, 2019

Should we be talking about the next atmospheric rivers in the southeast US?

If you haven't seen rainfall forecast for the southeast US for the next week, then you should.  The impacts from it will be in the form of flooding on all scales.   With nearly 10" of rain expected in northern MS to eastern Tennessee, between now and February 23, the Tennessee Valley Authority will have its hands full dealing with all the excessive runoff.  The national flood outlook highlights several areas of likely river flooding in the TVA's area of responsibility, and possible flooding over a much broader region from MS eastward to the midAtlantic states.

WPC's 7 day rainfall outlook made in the evening of Feb 17.

The NWS significant river flood outlook made on the evening of Feb 17.

All of this will be made possible by the advent of a nearly stationary deep upper trough in the western US and a ridge on the eastern Seaboard.  The passage of several upper-level shortwave troughs moving through the mean trough will allow several extratropical cyclones to pass through the Midwestern states but none of them will be able to sweep a cold front through the Southeast US, and at least a few of them will produce substantial atmospheric rivers.  The biggest one will occur in mid- to late week, potentially lasting up to a full day over northern AL to KY.  Water vapor transport will possibly exceed 1000 kg per meter per second.  This pattern fits closely to what Moore and co-authors found in 2015 to be associated with extreme precipitation events in the southeast US during the cool season.  It's likely this atmospheric river event will come to pass and quite soon after the last one.

The forecast integrated water vapor transport forecast from the largest of three atmospheric river events forecast over the period from Feb 18 to Feb 23, courtesy of the North American Ensemble Forecast System. 

Atmospheric rivers have been in the news lately after the flooding rains and huge mountain snows that fell on California last week.  And that's with good reason.  The sounding site at the National Weather Service, San Diego, CA just registered its highest precipitable water for the cool season.  The integrated water transport was at least 750 kg per meter per second. Perhaps the more remarkable aspects of this river was its length and depth.  Sheldon Kusselson, retired research scientist at NOAA/NESDIS and an expert in satellite analysis of water vapor,  remarked that he's seen few rivers visible all the way up to 300 mb in the layer precipitable water product (see his analysis below).  The accompanying rainfall broke the daily record at Palm Springs, CA with nearly 4".  Nearby Mount Polamar recorded over a foot of rain.  Meanwhile the Sierra added prodigious new snow accumulations to their expanding snow base.  Mammoth Mountain added almost six feet.  The floods that followed were substantial, especially around Palm Springs.  Multiple news sources mentioned atmospheric rivers, including LiveScience, Wired, the Washington Post.

The 13 Feb 2019 Atmospheric River is analyzed by Sheldon Kusselson, NOAA/NESDIS retired.  

A radiosonde climatology of San Diego precipitable water where the observed  value on 13 February far exceeds any previous precipitable water maximum (thin red trace) during the cool season.

However, I haven't heard any mention of the upcoming atmospheric river in the news media, or for any past flooding events in the Southeastern US.  In my recollection, the media only mentioned the term 'atmospheric river' when one struck California, subjecting the state to all the impacts we've heard about last week. And it's probably no surprise either.  The precipitation events occurring in the Western US, especially California, are almost completely dominated by atmospheric rivers.  As Mahoney and co-authors in 2015 pointed out, heavy precipitation events in the southeastern US, on the other hand, can come from a multitude of synoptic and mesoscale patterns during the warm and cool seasons.  They found that 41% of heavy precipitation events were matched to an atmospheric river.  I suspect that the term hasn't really caught on without the dominance of atmospheric rivers controlling southeast US heavy rain events.

But that's not to say that atmospheric rivers shouldn't be recognized as major flood producers in the southeast.  Consider the Nashville, TN flood of early May of 2010 where 12-15" of rain flooded the downtown, resulting in huge losses.  The event was big enough to trigger the National Weather Service to deploy the only service assessment team that year.  The huge rain event was fed by a persistent strong low-level jet, rapidly feeding tropical moisture into mesoscale convective complexes training over the same area for nearly a day.  That feed was identified by Moore in 2012 to be an atmospheric river drawing moisture northward from Central America.  Moore determined that this atmospheric river differed from ones existing solely over the ocean because the low-level jet was partially governed by lee cyclogenesis, and with a stationary midlevel trough to the west, the river wound up stalled.

This time may be a little different upon considering that multiple shortwave troughs will be traversing through the mean western trough.  There will be similarities too.  Each transient extratropical cyclone will have a low-level jet forming an atmospheric river with a tap deep into the tropics, particularly the central Carribean.  The moisture is already rich along the Gulf Coast with the onset of the first river.  There will be no fronts to displace the moisture and thus, little time needed for each cyclone to re-establish an atmospheric river.

The one question may be, why bother call the upcoming moisture-laden low-level jets atmospheric rivers?  Does naming them add value to the awareness of the upcoming rain event, or improve the accuracy of the forecasts?  I can't say that the forecasts will be improved.  But I do say it's important that we recognize that these processes occur globally.  Multiple papers have been written about the role of atmospheric rivers in transporting moisture from the tropics toward the poles (see Gimeno and co-authors in 2014, and Waliser and co-authors in 2012).  They've documented that there are several going on around the Earth at any one time.  Thus if so much effort has been made to name these moisture feeds into California, then perhaps we should spend the same time doing the same wherever they occur.  As Ralph and co-authors just recently documented in 2018, the AMS Glossary of Meteorology now has an official definition of an atmospheric river.  The definition defines an Atmospheric River to be:

Atmospheric river–A long, narrow, and transient corridor of strong horizontal water vapor transport that is typically associated with a low-level jet stream ahead of the cold front of an extratropical cyclone. The water vapor in atmospheric rivers is supplied by tropical and/or extratropical moisture sources. Atmospheric rivers frequently lead to heavy precipitation where they are forced upward—for example, by mountains or by ascent in the warm conveyor belt. Horizontal water vapor transport in the midlatitudes occurs primarily in atmospheric rivers and is focused in the lower troposphere. Atmospheric rivers are the largest “rivers” of fresh water on Earth, transporting on average more than double the flow of the Amazon River.

There is no mention that atmospheric rivers are confined to some arbitrary geographical location.  And so neither should anyone else.  Call them for what they are anywhere.

First edit:
Marshall Shepherd pointed out to me a comprehensive study on the climatology of southeast atmospheric resource events by Debbage and co-authors published in 2017 (including Marshall).  Their study provided more information on the frequency of these events impacting the coastline from Brownsville to Cape Hatteras.  They report an atmospheric river affects somewhere between these end points about 45% of all days where an average of 26 events per year affect each of the approximately 100 mi sections along the midAtlantic coastline to about 18 events per year along similar sections of the Texas coastline.  Their synoptic climatology of 500 mb ridge/trough positions and 850 mb flow for Gulf Coast atmospheric rivers, also shows similarities to some of the forecast events coming up the next week.

some readings

Debbage, N. , Miller, P. , Poore, S. , Morano, K. , Mote, T. and Marshall Shepherd, J. (2017), A climatology of atmospheric river interactions with the southeastern United States coastline. Int. J. Climatol, 37: 4077-4091. doi:10.1002/joc.5000

Dettinger, M.F. M. Ralph, and D. Lavers2015Setting the stage for a global science of atmospheric riversEos, Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union96
Dirmeyer, P. A., and Kinter, J. L. (2009). The maya express—late spring floods in the U.S. Midwest. Eos. Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 90, 101–102. doi: 10.1029/2009EO120001

Gimeno, L.R. Nieto, M. Vázquez, and D. A. Lavers, 2014Atmospheric rivers: A mini-reviewFront. Earth Sci.2, doi:

Lavers, D. A., and G. Villarini2013Atmospheric rivers and flooding over the central United StatesJ. Climate2678297836

Mahoney, K. M., and Coauthors, 2016Understanding the role of atmospheric rivers in heavy precipitation in the southeast United StatesMon. Wea. Rev.14416171632

Miller, D.K., D. Hotz, J. Winton, and L. Stewart2018Investigation of Atmospheric Rivers Impacting the Pigeon River Basin of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Wea. Forecasting, 33283–299, 

Moore, B. J.P. J. NeimanF. M. Ralph, and F. E. Barthold2012Physical processes associated with heavy flooding rainfall in Nashville, Tennessee, and vicinity during 1–2 May 2010: The role of an atmospheric river and mesoscale convective systemsMon. Wea. Rev.140358378

Moore, B. J.K. M. Mahoney, E. M. Sukovich, R. Cifelli, and T. M. Hamill, 2015Climatology and environmental characteristics of extreme precipitation events in the southeastern United StatesMon. Wea. Rev.143718741, doi:

Ralph, F.M., M.D. Dettinger, M.M. Cairns, T.J. Galarneau, and J. Eylander2018Defining “Atmospheric River”: How the Glossary of Meteorology Helped Resolve a Debate.Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 99837–839, 

Waliser, D. E., Moncrieff, M. W., Burridge, D., Fink, A. H., Gochis, D., Goswami, B. N., et al. (2012). The year of tropical convection (May 2008–April 2010): climate variability and weather highlights. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 93, 1189–1218. doi: 10.1175/2011BAMS3095.1

Zhu, Y. and R.E. Newell1998A Proposed Algorithm for Moisture Fluxes from Atmospheric Rivers. Mon. Wea. Rev., 126725–735,<0725:APAFMF>2.0.CO;2

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Did we realize that we appreciate government work?

I worked on this blog entry in the later days of the government shutdown after hearing stories that federal employees were becoming demoralized from their perceptions that they weren't valued.  Well,  I went back to work, got paid, and quickly became consumed by all the catchup I had to do from the shutdown.  So my I almost, but didn't quite, finished the blog.  Now I did and thus posted now.  Perhaps it's not quite in step with the news cycle since we averted a following shutdown.  But I think this is an important takeaway from the shutdown.  We are appreciated.

I recently saw a post from a friend of mine during the shutdown that he heard of NASA scientists being recruited away to Silicon Valley companies and not looking back.  I'm not sure when this happened but I could imagine that during the shutdown a lot of government researchers were thinking of doing the same.  After all, why would anyone want to hang out without pay doing research in the government when they could be making multiple times that amount working for some hot company?
I'm pretty sure that Ronald Reagan quipped something to that effect in this quote  The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away.” 

President Reagan may have said many valid quotes in his tenure, but I'm going to say that this one is not true.  I've been around long enough to know amazingly smart people that remain in government.   Why?  Because money isn't the number one motivating factor that governs their happiness.  There are other motivating factors.  In the world of meteorology where I ply my trade, most of my colleagues, many as smart as anybody in the private sector,  do research and forecast the weather in NOAA.  Most of them haven't run away or have been snatched by the private sector.  They'd prefer to advance the science and make the best forecasts they can because they believe in protecting life and property and advancing related missions in NOAA.  None of them mentioned they want to make more money, only enough so that they can focus on their mission and not worry about their quality of life.  I believe this to be true of many sectors of government, however, I would have to say that for my career, working in NOAA ranked as high as any government agency in satisfaction.

We've had our shutdowns in the past, big ones happened when Newt Gingrich led Congress into a budget battle with President Clinton for 21 days back in 1995-1996.  Or how about when Senator Cruz did the same with President Obama for 13 days?  None of them resulted in entirely missing a paycheck.  And when it did happen this time, I've heard many stories about demoralization around the news media.  The most demoralized seem to come from those working for the least pay, like in the TSA or the IRS.  I can certainly emphasize with them considering that they were running out of funds to pay for basic life necessities.  It's hard to think about your job when you're not getting paid and you're running out of money.  Even better-paid employees were wondering about whether it was worth staying in the government, even without the shutdown.

You see, it's because the shutdown brought to light the years of vitriol that we've heard since 1980.  Another Ronald Reagan quote came to mind that goes like this:  “Government is not a solution to our problem government is the problem.”  Now he might've been focusing on larger aspects of government and not the individual employee or his/her worth to society.  But the negative impressions of government employees from certain sectors of the US seemed to grow from there.  Think about quotes like 'We're from Washington and we're here to help', or that government employees are overpaid and lazy.  This kind of attitude strikes hard at the very core of why we work in the government.  We work in the civil service because we're service-oriented. Our mission is to serve American people or push the frontiers of knowledge.  Our sense of importance is not dependent on how much cash we can earn but by making a difference to someone's lives for whom we serve.  It's that simple.  So imagine how these quotes above can attack at our sense of service?  For this reason, the shutdown that lasted this long could have had a strongly demoralizing influence on civil servants, no matter if we got paid or not.  There is plenty to show that scientists in federal labs are being pushed out because they feel unappreciated, or worse, perceived to be an annoyance by half of the American public.  This is especially true when certain pundits proclaimed that a shutdown only inconveniences a few tourists because a national park gift shop is closed.  I'll let you know if who if you want.

But this shutdown showed another thing that I think never came to light as strongly previously – an awakening about how much civil servants are appreciated.  If there's one good thing about this shutdown, it's a reminder of what this society would be like without us.  

First off, there were the news media reports that alarmed everyone about the negative impacts on the country that multiplied every day there was this partial government shutdown.  One story after another warned about the immediate impacts, like commercial air travel, and general aviation. Perhaps the biggest story on the aviation side was what would happen if large numbers of TSA agents and air traffic controllers failed to show up for work? The answer would surely be a crippled travel infrastructure.  The reported ground stop at LaGuardia and travel delays in Philadelphia and Newark airports surely seem to go along with the higher than normal absences of air traffic controllers.  But that's just scratching the surface.  There were numerous stories about IRS workers taking emergency leave and the threat to the US from a hobbled FBI.

In my world as a National Weather Service employee, there were plenty of stories about the negative impacts of the shutdown on the NWS.   Already, reported by WRAL, some broken down river gauges were not repaired because of the shutdown in North Carolina.   Not just equipment but new stories described the sinking morale of forecasters such as by KTVQ in Billings, MT.  Fortunately, the dedication of NWS forecasters working without pay meant that the US was spared the much starker consequences of a shutdown with no weather services.  However Longer term impacts were starting to build up because training and forecast improvement work was stopped, and federal employees were furloughed.  NPR documented what hurricane preparedness planning was lost for an entire year.   It doesn't end there because the NWS lost over a month of training new and experienced employees in all aspects of doing their jobs, and developing new improvements to forecasting such as the new global model called the FV3, and an improved forecast guidance system called the National Blend of Models.  These impacts were not lost to the media (from KTVQ to TIME).   Step out a bit to a more broad scale, and one can see how much impact there was.  Take the comments from Marshall Shepherd (Head of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at University of Georgia) about how the shutdown affected his student's ability to do their research using NOAA and NASA data.  These impacts may not seem as dire as shutting down airports but multiply these by thousands and they become much larger.

"1. Several NOAA websites with data that I use in lectures/student assignments are down. I had to completely restructure assignments this week.

2. One of my doctoral students has a NASA civil servant on his PhD committee. We are trying to schedule his proposal defense this Spring, but the NASA person is furloughed and will likely be backed up when it is over. 

3. Several students in our Department planning to graduate in May are unable to complete senior projects, theses, or dissertations because they cannot access data needed from NOAA or other shuttered websites.

4. I have pending grant proposals to NASA and NSF. If funded, they bring $$ to UGA as overhead/indirect. Additionally, it allows me to offer research assistantships to new graduate students. The longer I wait for a decision from the Agency, the more likely UGA is going to lose this talent to some other University.
5. Our Atmospheric Sciences students were not able to meet with federal scientists at our biggest discipline conference in Phoenix because NASA, NOAA, and NSF colleagues couldn't go. This limits Georgia students' access to potential jobs, internships, fellowships, and so forth."

So these are the negative impacts and perhaps they give us federal employees that our work is vital and potentially damaging if missed.  Perhaps there's a more important reason to consider when our importance is in doubt.  It's the realization that our work was appreciated. Our stakeholders and the public empathized with our travails, and the kindness of our stakeholders displayed support of our livelihoods.  Again, this appreciation was widespread.  I take examples from my most familiar corner of civil service – the NWS.  Numerous stories remarked on the fact that the NWS stayed open and its users, gratified.  Look in particular on the story from Montgomeryadvertiser about the accurate tornado warnings provided by NWS Birmingham forecasters literally saved lives.  The USAToday  highlighted how forecasters stayed on the job to forecast blizzards across the northern US.  FOX40 reported on residents in Sacramento talking of their appreciation that the NWS Sacramento office was open and providing information on a storm that knocked power out to thousands.  The good stories appeared daily in the media, ranging from local to national news (like CBSnews).  Amidst all of this, I've been heartened to see too many examples to count of local government agencies and broadcasters bringing lunches to their local NWS offices in appreciation of their work and with a bit of solidarity.  I pasted only the tip of the iceberg below as examples of generosity expressed throughout the NWS.  Heck, even our sister agency, Environment Canada, provided meals across borders to offices in Montana, Alaska, and elsewhere.  Our work was appreciated, and this is just my narrow view from the NWS.

Overall, the partial shutdown of the federal government demonstrated that we were wanted, appreciated, and its partners and people across the US expressed dismay at how we were treated.  Not only that but the evidence also appears in surveys, such as that conducted by Pew Research, that federal programs are valued by the public and partners.  I note that both republicans and democrats favor keeping federal spending at least the same levels for every one of the topic areas except providing foreign assistance. Close to the backyard where I work, I find it heartening that 94% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans do not want a decrease in scientific research.  

So, while optics sometimes appears to show that the American public don't favor federal employees, the evidence shows otherwise.  That's the evidence.  I also share just a small sample of pictures and stories posted on social media by my colleagues from around the country.  This should give you a sense of NWS partners giving their thanks.  I'm sure this is repeated throughout the various agencies of the federal government.

NWS employees keep providing service amidst hardship
John De Block posted this article from the Montgomery Advertiser. .

Appreciation of government work

Food was delivered to the NWS at PeachTree City, GA

Here at my place of employment at the National Weather Center, there was enough generosity to nearly break a table in half.

The Webster Parish Police Jury delivered BBQ to the NWS Shreveport office.

I think this caption says it all.  Others show their support when they understand someone else is in need of a hand.

The city of Roanoke, VA posted a list of services willing to help furloughed federal workers.
The city of Indianapolis provides a community resource expo for furloughed and excepted feds.
The Coconino County Roads Public Works team shared lunch with the NWS Flagstaff office.

The Mad River Glen ski resort offers free skiing to federal employees during the shutdown.

Dave Snider sent this post of the lunch at the Alaska Aviation Weather Unity, Volcano Advisory Center, Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, and the Anchorage Weather Forecast Office made possible by Environment Canada Edmonton.

Kate Shawkey posted this free lunch at the NWS Hastings office.
Rick Smith posted a picture of their wall of appreciation at NWS Norman, OK.

Realizing that government support is important
LA times: Shutdown showed America's dependence on the federal government (Read the full story)

Air travel

Weather Readiness

Law Enforcement


Lending Institutions
AMEXAvadian Credit UnionBank of AmericaBoeing Employees Credit UnionCapital One,
ChaseCitibankCongressional Federal Credit Union:, Credit Union 1, Coast Central Credit Union, Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union:, Discover Card, ENT Credit Union, Fed Choice Central Credit UnionFirst Command Financial ServicesFirst Oklahoma Bank, Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington, Icon Credit Union, BoiseJustice Federal Credit Union, Landmark Credit Union - Wisconsin, Lending Club, Lowes, NASA Federal Credit Union,  NavientNavy Federal Credit Union, Paypal, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, Quicken Loans, San Diego Fed Credit Union, Service Credit Union, Stockman Bank - Montana, SunTrust, Synchrony Bank, USAA, US Bank, US Employees Credit Union, Washington Federal Bank, Wells Fargo

Auto companies
Chrysler, Ford, Lexus, Subaru, Toyota VW

Alabama Power, Chugach Electric, Enstar Natural Gas, Dominion Virginia Power, GCI, Matanuska, Montana Dakota Utilities, Pepco, Memphis Light Gas and Water, Washington DC Gas

Cellular, all major companies

Geico, Country Financial, Safeco, State Farm

Assistance Programs
United Way, Food Bank, catholic community Services - UT, St. Vincent de Paul - Seattle, Mercy Food Pantry - OKC

James Brotherton shared this link of hundreds of food places offering free food to furloughed federal employees.
Julie Campbell shared this link of shutdown services from Montgomery Co., MD.

Things to do
Rosetta-stone gift offer, Anchorage Museum, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Adler Planetarium, American Bar Association continuing ed credits, Boulevard Brewing - KC, Enchanted Alaska, Oregon Zoo, OKC National Memorial adn Museum, Miami Free Admission to Museums, Harlem Globetrotters, Dallas Symphony, Utah's Hogle Zoo, U of Alaska SeaWolves games, 

and this is the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The great government shutdown - day 27

I'm now furloughed for 27 days with no end in sight.  Instead of developing courses, improving the EF Scale, thinking about the next generation of warning services, I'm at home growing increasingly concerned about how to weather this crisis.  I do have other things to keep me busy.  I'm still a meteorologist, and thus plan to keep my skills active, just through other means, such as this blog site.  I'm also Chair of our local Scout Pack and the Pinewood Derby is coming up, along with other activities.  I decided to see what working out 5 days a week does for me; I'm already noticing significant improvement.  I help with my wife's proposal writing, and my son's homework.  But I miss my other family at the Warning Decision Training Division, and I especially miss the interactions of my colleagues.

I'm beginning to see the potential of a war of attrition as federal employees lose hope that the government is a safe place to have a rewarding career.  I'm also seeing the level of demoralization increase as people see how indifferent the administration is to the welfare of its employees.  How can anyone working in the shutdown agencies not be demoralized when the president retweets whacko editorials calling for federal employees to just quit?  I certainly hope that somebody cares and values the work that we do.   

 To this, I answer that people do care.  I know how highly the emergency management community cares about the National Weather Service.  They do every time the National Weather Service works with emergency management to prepare for big weather events like fires, blizzards, severe weather and hurricanes.  I'm sure anyone looking to take their business to the next level cares that the Securities and Exchange Commission works.  I'm sure the flying public cares that there are no delays in airport security and that air traffic controllers aren't distracted by how they're going to pay their bills.  So far I've talked about the front face of the government, those employees that have to report to work in a shutdown.  

They may be what the media talks about or what the public sees on a daily basis, but they are supported by a foundation of government employees that provide everything from research, administrative support, training, and more.  They are the ones that are furloughed.  Without them, everything will crumble.  For my part, I'm one of those that provide training the National Weather Service forecasters.  The forecasters consider what I do to be absolutely essential, and therefore I consider my job essential to the success of the National Weather Service.  It's not just me, however.  I work with an entire division devoted to training the NWS.  We have cooperative institute research associates and contractors.  None of the federal employees can do our job without their help.  They're simply not expendable, like some commodity.  They are professionals that become indispensable.   As this shutdown continues, I fear that the foundation will start to give away as employees lose hope, or have to find other means to make ends meet.  

For this reason, I wrote my senators expressing my grave concerns about the lack of interest in our welfare at the top.  I wrote from my perspective.  There are millions of other perspectives that our elected officials need to hear about.  My letter is on top, followed by the responses of Senators Lankford and Inhofe below.   The responses are a bit canned and they differ in content.  But I hope you find some encouragement and if anything, some motivation to write your representatives and keep writing.  

Dear Senator Lankford and Senator Inhofe:

My name is James LaDue and I work for the National Weather Service's (NWS) Warning Decision Training Division.  My division's work is to develop courses and training on warning decision making to all forecasters in the National Weather Service.  The types of warnings for which we conduct training include those related to severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, flooding, and other hazards. The courses that we teach provides an important foundation for the success of the NWS in providing warnings to protect life and property.  
The job I do is not just work but a passion of mine.  I am the kind of person that looks forward to pushing the latest science into the operations of the NWS.  Today my colleagues and I are unable to carry out our training because of the shutdown.

Now I weigh in on this shutdown with this letter as a private citizen.  With no hope for a budget agreement any time soon, this shutdown is likely to become the longest in history.  Consequently, this shutdown will likely produce larger and larger negative outcomes for our country as it continues to drag onward.  Our division cannot educate incoming NWS employees on warning decision making until the shutdown is over.  This is already causing a delay on the date in which our students will be trained to issue warnings.  Even among the trained NWS staff, I'm already hearing of the stress and uncertainty impacting forecast and warning operations in the NWS.  There is only so much time left before we will start to see these impacts badly affect the communities they serve.

Some of that is because many of my colleagues only have so much savings.  And the rest is likely from a loss of feeling secure.   My new federal employee colleagues are living with minimal savings or in high cost of living areas and cannot go on without pay after missing even a couple checks.   Others have had events in their lives that have dwindled their savings and are now living closer to the edge of insolvency.  All of us are shouldering the burden of increasing stress, not knowing when payment will come.  We know sacrifice for country but practical matters of needing funds will begin to dominate everyone’s concerns.  While creditors may show some leniency, they also have only so much patience.

While these issues come with every shutdown, this one has been accompanied with an excessive encroachment of politics into the federal workforce.  I’m concerned about the posturing on both sides of the issues surrounding the budget impasse, especially the recent attempts to politicize federal employees.  I don’t want to call out specific incidents because I think you’ve heard them too but I can if prompted.  Like all federal employees, I work especially hard to make sure that my activities are as apolitical as possible.  We are taught that every year when we must renew our ethics training.  The politicization of federal employees by politicians to further their causes only serves to threaten our culture of ethical service and it must stop. To do so I implore the Senate to participate with the House to end this shutdown now so that the politicians do not attempt to further damage the apolitical nature of the federal workforce.   Leave the politicians’ work to stay with the politicians by keeping the government open.  

If we are to restore proper perspective of putting country before party, I implore the Senate to work with other branches of government to modify how appropriations are done so that federal employees and the people they serve don't suffer the consequences of budget disagreements.   We are an embarrassment to ourselves and to every other country.  No other country I'm aware of shuts down their government because of a budget impasse.   I'm sure there are options to allow the government to continue functioning while budget disagreements are resolved.   Needless to say, I've heard quite a few interesting options that I would love to share, though I'm sure you've heard of them.  However, I'm sure you and your colleagues have reasonable options that can be considered in an amendment to the appropriations process. 

Response by Senator Inhofe first

Dear Mr. LaDue:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the recent government shutdown. As your voice in Washington, I appreciate being made aware of your views.

The President sent his budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2019 to Congress on February 12, 2018. This past June 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed all twelve appropriations bills out of committee in a bipartisan manner. Of these twelve, nine have passed out of the Senate, and five have been signed into law by President Trump. These five enacted bills comprise over 75 percent of our government’s total discretionary funding for FY19. As a result, federal agencies like the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been funded and will continue to operate without interruption. 

 The remaining seven funding measures that have not yet been signed into law were operating under a short-term continuing resolution until December 21, 2018. Due to dire security concerns on the U.S. southern border, the President made a commitment to increase border security funding and build a barrier at the border. Following the December 21 funding expiration, President Trump chose not to sign the pending funding measures because of their insufficient funding for border security. And, unfortunately, due to Democrats’ unwillingness to negotiate with our President, legislation appropriating funding for the federal agencies that fall within the jurisdiction of these seven funding measures expired with the continuing resolution on December 21, 2018. 

The current shutdown is a burden on many Americans who faithfully serve our nation, and I am disappointed Democratic leaders have thus far not taken seriously the issue of border security. However, I am hopeful Democratic leaders reverse this obstruction and we reopen the government. As a member of Congress, one of my primary responsibilities is to ensure the safety of my fellow Americans. As such, I support President Trump’s effort to fully fund border security. 

Proposals are currently circulating within Congress that would reopen the government but fail to providefull funding for a border wall—these simply defer a problem that we can no longer avoid. Our borders desperately need security. Insufficient resources allow thousands of immigrants to illegally enter the U.S. each year, and many of these illegal immigrants are involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other crimes. Democrats, many of whom have supported satisfactory border funding in the past, are choosing to prolong the government shutdown by refusing to acknowledge the importance of this funding, which is in the best interest of all Americans. While I will continue to work to see that the federal government is reopened as soon as possible, I am committed to ensuring our southern border is secure. 

Furloughed workers who may need assistance during this time can visit the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) website here for guidance regarding how to operate under a funding lapse. Additionally, Congress recently passed S.24 - the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which ensures that backpay is provided for federal employees affected by the shutdown and allows employees required to work during the shutdown to use leave time. President Trump has agreed to sign this legislation.

Thank you, again, for contacting me regarding this issue. I look forward to supporting a solution that both provides border security funding and reopens important government agencies. If you are interested in keeping up with my work in the Senate, I encourage you to sign up for my online newsletter by visiting: 


James M. Inhofe
United States Senator

Response by Senator Lankford

January 15, 2019

Dear Mr. James LaDue, 

Thank you for contacting me about the federal government shutdown.  I appreciate your involvement in such an important national issue.

As you are aware, the federal government is currently partially shut down, a carryover from the end of last year.  The U.S. Constitution states that before federal tax dollars may be expended, Congress must first enact a law giving permission for those funds to be spent.  Congress is required to fund the federal government with the passage of 12 appropriations bills by the end of fiscal year, which runs through September 30th

Over the past 12 months, Congress agreed on five of the 12 appropriations bills to fund most of the government including Defense, Veterans, Education, Health, Energy, and more.  However, there were major disputes with the remaining 7 bills, most of which centered around the issue of border security.
The President requested, months ago, more federal funding for additional border security, including constructing more fencing and using additional technology along parts of the southern border.  Our nation already has more than 700 miles of fencing, but some of it is old and in need of repair.  Our office has been notified by border agents that there has been a significant decrease in the number of illegal immigrant entries since new fencing, constructed or replaced using $1.7 billion toward border security from the previous appropriations, has been placed in some areas.  Border security has not always been and should not be a partisan issue.  I support securing our southern border by adding technology, staff, and fencing where needed.  National security should remain a top priority for Congress, and border security is a necessary part of it.
During a federal government shutdown, the entire government does not completely shut down.  Essential services, national security, transportation, and safety functions continue to operate.  Programs that are funded with mandatory funds (eg. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) are not affected by a government shutdown.  But there is tremendous cost financially and personally when the government shuts down since every agency without funding must cease new operations, workers are furloughed, contracts have to pause, grants stop, etc.  Again, in this case about 75 percent of the government is funded, but the other 25 percent are feeling the consequences like not receiving their paychecks.  I have spoken to many great federal workers and contractors that are frustrated and financially hurting during this shutdown.  This is unacceptable.
I have worked to end the shutdown politics and to propose a requirement that places the greatest burden on Congress and the White House when annual funding has not been completed.  In addition, I’ve worked on a separate proposal that would keep the government open when Congress and the President cannot reach a funding agreement by the fiscal deadline.  To force compromise and agreement on funding, it would include a series of weekly 5 percent cuts to congressional and White house funding.  This is designed to dramatically ramp up pressure on decision makers to reach a funding agreement.  This concept holds federal operations harmless while forcing Washington to do its job and carry out its constitutional responsibilities to fund federal operations.
believe that if Congress is unable to meet the appropriations deadline that the government should automatically and temporarily be funded at the previous year's levels.  Executive branch cabinet members should not travel and Members of Congress must remain in D.C. until all negotiations are finished.  The American people and federal employees should not be held hostage because Congress did not properly do its job.  This bipartisan proposal will encourage congressional accountability.
I have also worked to develop major budget process reforms for Congress.  We still operate under the 1974 Budget Act, which was created just after Watergate.  It has always been a bulky process and has only worked as designed a total of 4 out of 44 years since it was enacted.  Our three-step budgeting process and 12 appropriations bills process is not used anywhere else in the world.
We should reduce the number of appropriations bills to pass every two years to no more than four bills.  We should mandate floor debate for greater transparency.  We should conduct more oversight hearings, and we should completely rework the Congressional Budget Office process.  Currently, I have about five other Members who are actively working with me on this budget redesign.  I will continue to work with Members from both sides of the aisle to get the changes we need to fix this broken process that favors the status quo and spending more.  I recently spoke on the Senate floor to discuss my proposals to prevent government shutdowns.
Congress can also consider a continuing resolution (CR), which continues last year's funding into the current fiscal year and kicks the can of responsibility further down the road.  A CR is better than a government shutdown, but it is also a terrible way to fund the government.  Simply copying last year’s priorities into this year gives no oversight, no opportunity for change, and no certainty.  Also, new contracts cannot start under a CR since there is no certainty for the future of any program.  Congress has used 178 CRs to fund the government since 1977.  Congress has not followed the correct annual process to fund the federal government since fiscal year 1995.  While not every CR is bad, it is certainly not as good as individual spending bills that have more input and greater transparency.  A little sunlight is a very good disinfectant for government waste.
As I continue to serve on the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee, I will fight for responsible federal spending and a long-term solution to our national debt.  I will also continue my work as a member of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as we work to fix the nation's broken immigration system.
I hope this information is helpful.  Please feel free to contact me again or sign up for my e-newsletter via my website at for more information about my work in the U.S. Senate for all of us.

In God We Trust,

James Lankford
United States Senator