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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

For nearly a year and a half, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has operated without a Senate-confirmed leader, setting a record for the position's vacancy. Now a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek investigates the Trump administration's nominee for the position, former AccuWeather CEO Barry Lee Myers.

The big picture: Trump nominated Myers in October of 2017 and he was cleared by the Senate Commerce Committee in December and again in January, when the White House resubmitted his nomination. But Myers' nomination has yet to reach the Senate floor. Despite support from most Republicans, he has been mired in controversy and concerns over conflict of interest.

The impact: Without an administrator, the agency cannot plot long-term strategy. Day-to-day operations are being carried out by retired rear admiral Tim Galludet, who was confirmed as NOAA's deputy administrator in October of last year.

The holdup: Myers spent his career working at AccuWeather, which was founded by his brother Joel. However, he has no background in science, making him an unusual pick for the job. Arguably more concerning are the potential conflicts of interest associated with his family and prior lobbying work to encourage the privatization of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Three main concerns:

  • Three past NOAA administrators expressed hesitation about his nomination, arguing that it would be nearly impossible for him to distance himself completely from his interests at AccuWeather.
  • Myers was appointed to a NOAA working group in 2009, where he helped shape policy to keep the National Weather Service from expanding information access to smartphones and social media. At the same time, AccuWeather broadened their own mobile platform.
  • In February, Myers clashed publicly with the NWS when AccuWeather sent out a false alert to devices on the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean that a tsunami was on the way after the NWS performed a test warning. NWS tweeted that the alert was a mistake, and asked concerned parties to refer to their site.
    • In turn, Myers blamed the test warning, saying it was mislabeled. NWS investigated and found no error.

What's next: Myers will appear with other nominees in the Senate Executive Calendar, but representatives from the Commerce Committee's press office said that his confirmation is not yet scheduled for a vote on the floor. Meanwhile, hurricane season is revving up, and NOAA is working to keep up with tracking and monitoring storms without a director.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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