• International Obligations. NWS needed to maintain its international obligations, most notably through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and none were altered by the MAR.

Budget. NWS and NESDIS are parts of NOAA and the DOC, and thus subject to NOAA and DOC considerations as well as their own.3 Furthermore, NWS worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), and FAA and the Department of Defense (DOD) for the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD).

Downsizing Government. The NWS expected the MAR to increase the efficiency of its operations and downsize its organization with no degradation of weather services. The agency planned to reduce the number of field offices from 256 to about 120, and to reduce its staffing levels from a pre-MAR level of 5,100 to about 4,000 through restructuring and automation (GAO, 1995d; NWS, 1989).4 The long term net savings in staffing costs was used as part of the justification for the MAR (NWS, 1989).

Performance Guarantee. Congressional Language (Public Laws 100-685 and 102-567) required certification that services did not degrade. This was an important factor in deciding how the MAR would be executed, with several key processes tied directly to this issue.

Congressional Politics. In addition to agency-level political issues, NWS was highly sensitive to state, district, and local politics because of the national distribution of field offices and the plan to close or move many of them. There was high potential for politically-influenced congressional and Administration involvement, and resulting risks to the overall plan and delay, that played out in numerous Congressionally-requested reviews of individual office relocation plans (OAR, 2010) and even specific legislative direction for the location of particular offices (U.S. Congress, 1992).

Labor Relationships. NWS had strong union participation at the field office staff level (National Weather Service Employees Organization; NWSEO). The MAR did not include plans to change the role of NWSEO, but the proposed change in workforce structure meant NWSEO and its members were strongly affected. Prior to the MAR, NWS had generally maintained limited interaction with NWSEO (NRC, 1994a).

Partnerships. NWS depended on many partnerships with government, academia, media, and private sector entities. At the time of the MAR, some of these were generally strong (e.g., government, academia, research institutions, technology firms), others such as the media and private sector meteorology firms were informal to a fault, or simply absent.

Shared Responsibilities. The MAR elements of ASOS and NEXRAD required shared responsibility with FAA and DOD. This inevitably introduced challenges from authority and coordinated budgeting. Within NOAA, the shared responsibility with NESDIS for satellites was important, but mostly handled in a cooperative and constructive way.

Public-Private Interaction. A growing private sector marketing weather products was increasingly performing functions of data acquisition, modeling, and delivery of customized products. At the time, there was considerable friction between NWS and the private sector regarding perceived conflict of roles (NRC, 2003a).

Completeness. The MAR did not focus primarily on some elements of the enterprise, such as the River Forecast Centers (RFCs). These, while proceeding along in development, did not receive the same priority in planning, implementation, and oversight as the other elements of the MAR.

Budget and Schedule

Information sources available to the committee are surprisingly poor for assessing budget and schedule performance of the MAR. The generally accepted authoritative source is GAO reports published throughout the MAR, which are rather sparse in their supporting details. The annual National Implementation Plans of the MAR documented budget requests; while not always identical to the funds expended, they provide some ability to interpret the GAO numbers.


3One anecdotal comment was that “[i]t is sometimes easier to get funding for new programs than for sustaining existing ones” (Kraus, 2011).

4Staff was ultimately reduced from 5,200 to 4,700 while changing the mix from one third meteorologists and two thirds technicians to the opposite (NRC, 1994a; Sokich, 2011). There were proposals for more dramatic staff reductions early in the planning stages (Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc., 1983).

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