the private sector when a service is currently provided or can be provided by commercial enterprises, unless otherwise directed by applicable law.”1 Some members of the private weather sector read this passage as prohibiting the NWS from providing information to the general public whenever the private sector could do so. The NWS interprets the policy to affirm that the NWS creates and disseminates forecasts and warnings to the public at large and does not provide customized weather products for specific individual clients. The NWS would decline to tailor a weather product, for example, for a local ski resort or a sports team because such a tailored product could be obtained from the private sector. A broader interpretation, the NWS insists, would be untrue to the intent of the policy statement. Thus, the 1991 NWS policy has not resolved the conflict.


Without a strong, effective collaboration among the government, academic, and private sectors, the general public would not have been the beneficiary of the great advances in weather and climate science and technology over the last 50 years. There are many successful partnerships between two or more of the sectors. Indeed, cooperation, rather than conflict, appears to be the normal mode of operation.

Government-Academic Partnerships

Because weather data are scientific in nature, the government rightly seeks to have a strong scientific component in its national weather programs. Indeed, a significant effort in the NWS modernization program was the effort to collocate new weather service offices in academic research environments.2 (The great majority of state climate offices and regional climate centers are located at universities.) Of the 121 NWS offices, 20% are located at or near university campuses with atmospheric science departments. An example is the NWS State College office, which is located only a few blocks from the meteorology department at Penn State University (PSU). NWS employees at the State College office coauthor papers with PSU faculty, attend and give seminars at PSU, and work cooperatively in refining


A similar statement can be found in early NWS policies. For example, the 1978 policy on industrial meteorology states, “NWS will not provide specialized services for business or industry when the services are currently offered or can be offered by a commercial enterprise.” National Weather Service, 1978, Policy on industrial meteorology, National Weather Service Operations Manual 78-24, Part A, Chapter 55, pp. 1-3.


National Research Council, 1991, Toward a New National Weather Service—A First Report, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 67 pp.

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