Enlarge /. Minister of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Last month, we covered the results of a NOAA investigation into scientific integrity violations related to dealing with President Donald Trump's self-inflicted hurricane controversy.
The problems began when Trump incorrectly tweeted that Alabama would likely be affected by Hurricane Dorian. After seeing an influx of questions, the Birmingham National Weather Service office tweeted a clarification. Instead of simply correcting the mistake, the White House insisted that the president was right, an insistence that ultimately led to his marker-changed forecast map presented by the Oval Office.
The problem with the NOAA was that its leadership released an unsigned statement that sided with President Trump and criticized the Birmingham office for "speaking in absolute numbers that were inconsistent with the probabilities of the best forecasting products currently available ".
From NOAA to retail
The NOAA Scientific Integrity Officer commissioned an investigation into this statement and concluded that Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs and Communications Director Julie Kay Roberts had violated the agency's regulations when the statement was released. However, the investigation also found that the statement had actually been headed by the Ministry of Commerce's leadership – none of them were willing to answer questions from NOAA investigators.
Enter the Inspector General of Commerce who has initiated a parallel investigation. The agency's Inspector General, Peggy Gustafson, released a memo on Monday summarizing her conclusions. Oddly enough, the June 26 memo stated that the full report should be released on Monday at the same time. However, the full report was not available, and the memo itself contained several editors "pending review of permissions".
On Wednesday evening, Gustafson published a second memo, "The department is actively preventing OIG from completing an evaluation." Therein, Gustafson effectively claims that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross's office is blocking the publication of the report.
The summary summarized four main conclusions:
I. The department ran a flawed process that did not take NOAA participation into account.
II. The Department asked the NOAA to make a statement that did not promote the interests of the NOAA or the National Weather Service.
III. The department ignored the intent of the National Weather Service Birmingham tweets on public security and the distinction between physics and social science news.
IV. A NOAA employee deleted relevant text messages and the guidelines for federal records are out of date.
According to the report commissioned by the NOAA, it was Julie Kay Roberts – the communications director featured in the NOAA report – who deleted the text messages.
Trade Inspector Peggy Gustafson's second memo states that the store management has agreed to review their report within 48 hours and identify any specific statements that they believe should be edited. But Gustafson says the secretariat is now upset that the report refers to information in evidence attachments that it previously requested to be edited. Gustafson writes: “This position is unfounded because it suggests that the department has a role in the preparation of its reports by OIG and what evidence is used. On the contrary, the department has no control over how or when OIG carries out its supervisory work or structures its reports. To expect otherwise contradicts the IG law and an unacceptable interference with the independence of OIG. "
According to Gustafson, the management now refuses to identify certain statements that it wants to edit and leaves the final report pending. She continues: “In particular, communication was consistently collegial until OIG sent you the final report to review the privileges and then issue the final report. This shift in tone appears to be directly related to the content of our report and the responsibility outcomes of the high-level individuals involved. "
In other words, Gustafson believes that, after finding that the report concluded that senior trade officials were responsible for the problems, officials stopped cooperating. The memo requests that the secretariat submit its specific editorial requests by July 9, so that the report can be published.