Putting the Weather Bureau in DoC was nominally justified owing to the importance of forecasting for air travel and other forms of interstate business. The Weather Bureau was originally part of the Army Signal Corps, until the so-called Organic Act of 1890 created the civilian version in the Department of Agriculture.
 The NOAA corps, a group of commissioned officers who helped operate NOAA's observing platforms ... notably oceanographic ships and the aircraft facility ... were probably one of the most useful components of NOAA from a scientific standpoint. When this was first written they'd been axed, as part of the budget-cutting. As of summer 1999, they're back in the program ... but for how long?
 A perfect example of this was the change to how they reimbursed for travel expenses. It used to be that this was considered non-taxable income, and they simply sent a check for moving expenses. Then, suddenly it became R.I.T.A (some vague acronym): in R.I.T.A, the checks received as reimbursement for moving expenses became taxable income, but employees could submit a God-awful complicated form to request reimbursement for the extra tax. O.K. ... except that when they get that reimbursement check, that income is also taxable. So the following year, they have to fill in the same form again, to be reimbursed for that extra tax. You guessed it ... that check is taxable income ... In technical terms, this becomes an infinite regress, with a constant (non-trivial) paperwork load associated with each iteration. Eventually, you get fed up with it and quit ... someone, somewhere in the system (I'm damned if I know who actually benefits) pockets whatever amount you had left when you got fed up and quit submitting paperwork. A classic screw-job, eh?
 "Expensive" is a relative term, of course. Compared to, say, the Defense Department, the NWS expenditures for Doppler radars, etc. are merely pocket change. But in today's world, every $billion item is going to get some political scrutiny!
 Of course, as it turns out, the Communists didn't last so long using 5-year plans, either!
 Federal employees are constantly portrayed as bloodsucking, lazy parasites, awash in benefits at the expense of hard-working private citizens. We are a convenient scapegoat for unscrupulous politicians (a redundant adjective, that!), who then muzzle us when we try to defend ourselves from this sort of smear campaign. Federal employees are the analogs to Jews in Nazi Germany, and that is only slightly hyperbolic ... no one (sane!) is proposing concentration camps and gas chambers for Federal employees, certainly, but the "bloated Federal bureaucracy" (that includes us!) is being blamed for all the country's budget woes. Not everyone in that bureaucracy is a pointless paper-pusher; that label wrongly includes a lot of folks who are busting their asses to do something useful for the nation.
 See my essay on tornadoes.