services differ by sector. The National Weather Service (NWS), non-NWS government agencies, academia, and the private sector each play a unique as well as shared role in the provision of services. Because of the overlap and blurring of activities among these sectors it is important not to ascribe monolithic status to any one of them. For instance, universities and government labs are involved with commercialization of research as a result of government policies that encourage technology transfer. For-profit companies routinely compete with federal labs and universities for federal research dollars. These same entities compete with each other for contracts for the provision of services to companies and foreign governments. The NWS relies on a range of contractors and purchases a number of services from the private sector to fulfill its mission. Further, the complex tapestry of sectors, institutions, and services means that to understand the proper role of any subset requires some sense of the whole. Like the blind men and the elephant, partial perspectives are likely to mislead.
The purpose of this paper is to define the policy problem associated with the present state of roles and responsibilities within the weather and climate services enterprise. Recommendation of alternative courses of action goes beyond the present focus. The paper begins with a discussion of issues centered on particular “sectors,” noting however the considerable difficulty associated with identification of clear boundaries between sectors. It needs to be emphasized that many examples are provided in the text below in order to illustrate the complexities involved in issues of roles and responsibilities. Such examples are meant to be illustrative and diagnostic, not prescriptive; no claim is made here as to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the activities discussed. However, this is the essential point of the paper: in many cases, it is difficult if not impossible to judge which actions are appropriate and which are not, given the lack of community agreement on roles and responsibilities.
The NWS and its predecessors have for more than a century had legislative authority for governmental provision of weather services. In this role, agency officials have long been sensitive to potential conflict with the private sector.
Contemporary debate is quite similar to debate on this topic that took place more than a half-century ago. Following World War II, numerous military meteorologists found themselves returning to life as civilians and