Appendix J
Alternative Approaches for Improving Aviation Weather Services and Research

National policy makers have numerous options for altering agency roles and missions in ways that might improve the ability of the federal government to provide aviation weather services and provide related research. They range from maintaining the status quo to making radical changes. The committee evaluated seven alternatives that, in the opinion of the committee, encompass the most feasible and reasonable possible courses of action:

  1. Maintain the status quo.
  2. Maintain the status quo, with a senior focal point within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for aviation weather.
  3. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the FAA.
  4. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the National Weather Service (NWS).
  5. Establish a new organization to provide aviation weather services and conduct related research.
  6. Assign primary responsibility for aviation weather operational services and related research to two different agencies.
  7. Increase the effectiveness with which the FAA serves as the lead agency for aviation weather services and related research.

These alternatives form the basis for the committee's recommendations on future agency roles and missions for aviation weather. The first six alternatives are described below. Alternative 7, which the committee recommends implementing, is described in Chapter 6 (page 52).

Alternative 1. Maintain the status quo. The current system would continue to operate with no changes in agency roles and missions.

Advantages. Accepting the status quo would, by definition, eliminate the trouble and expense of making changes to the deeply imbedded organizational cultures and management structures of federal agencies involved in aviation weather and research. Furthermore, simply doing a better job of following current policies, such as the existing memorandum of agreement between the FAA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for aviation weather services (FAA, 1977), is likely to improve aviation weather system operations. Similarly, carrying out recommendations contained in this report and in other documents, such as the U.S. Weather Research Program Implementation Plan (USWRP, 1994), the National Aviation Weather Program Plan (OFCM, 1992), and Weather for Those Who Fly (NRC, 1994), would improve aviation weather research and development without any realignment of agency roles and missions. In addition, federal agencies could improve their ability to carry out their currently assigned roles by working more closely with each other and by establishing more effective bilateral and multilateral relationships to coordinate and plan aviation weather services and related research.

Disadvantages. Accepting the status quo misses the opportunity to seek more substantial improvements in aviation weather services. In particular, it does not adequately address concerns regarding program focus, interagency coordination, and leadership. As a result, the setting of aviation weather priorities for operational services and related research would remain fragmented among and within federal agencies and their respective congressional committees.

Alternative 2. Maintain the status quo, with a senior focal point within the FAA for aviation weather. The current system would continue to operate with no changes in agency roles and missions. However, an FAA associate administrator would be given overall responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the planning and implementation of aviation weather services and related research within the FAA. This official would also coordinate the timely development of agency-wide responses to existing and future aviation weather issues. This means



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--> Appendix J Alternative Approaches for Improving Aviation Weather Services and Research National policy makers have numerous options for altering agency roles and missions in ways that might improve the ability of the federal government to provide aviation weather services and provide related research. They range from maintaining the status quo to making radical changes. The committee evaluated seven alternatives that, in the opinion of the committee, encompass the most feasible and reasonable possible courses of action: Maintain the status quo. Maintain the status quo, with a senior focal point within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for aviation weather. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the FAA. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the National Weather Service (NWS). Establish a new organization to provide aviation weather services and conduct related research. Assign primary responsibility for aviation weather operational services and related research to two different agencies. Increase the effectiveness with which the FAA serves as the lead agency for aviation weather services and related research. These alternatives form the basis for the committee's recommendations on future agency roles and missions for aviation weather. The first six alternatives are described below. Alternative 7, which the committee recommends implementing, is described in Chapter 6 (page 52). Alternative 1. Maintain the status quo. The current system would continue to operate with no changes in agency roles and missions. Advantages. Accepting the status quo would, by definition, eliminate the trouble and expense of making changes to the deeply imbedded organizational cultures and management structures of federal agencies involved in aviation weather and research. Furthermore, simply doing a better job of following current policies, such as the existing memorandum of agreement between the FAA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for aviation weather services (FAA, 1977), is likely to improve aviation weather system operations. Similarly, carrying out recommendations contained in this report and in other documents, such as the U.S. Weather Research Program Implementation Plan (USWRP, 1994), the National Aviation Weather Program Plan (OFCM, 1992), and Weather for Those Who Fly (NRC, 1994), would improve aviation weather research and development without any realignment of agency roles and missions. In addition, federal agencies could improve their ability to carry out their currently assigned roles by working more closely with each other and by establishing more effective bilateral and multilateral relationships to coordinate and plan aviation weather services and related research. Disadvantages. Accepting the status quo misses the opportunity to seek more substantial improvements in aviation weather services. In particular, it does not adequately address concerns regarding program focus, interagency coordination, and leadership. As a result, the setting of aviation weather priorities for operational services and related research would remain fragmented among and within federal agencies and their respective congressional committees. Alternative 2. Maintain the status quo, with a senior focal point within the FAA for aviation weather. The current system would continue to operate with no changes in agency roles and missions. However, an FAA associate administrator would be given overall responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the planning and implementation of aviation weather services and related research within the FAA. This official would also coordinate the timely development of agency-wide responses to existing and future aviation weather issues. This means

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--> that one person would accept a sense of ownership for the effectiveness of the FAA's aviation weather system. Advantages. As discussed under Alternative 7, developing a single FAA position on broad aviation weather issues sometimes involves the offices of several FAA associate administrators. Officials from the NWS, other federal agencies, and user groups are often frustrated when they try to resolve aviation weather issues because there is no single point of contact within the FAA who can bring issues to closure. Therefore, in addition to the advantages described under Alternative 1, this alternative would (1) improve aviation weather leadership and focus within the FAA, (2) improve the FAA's ability to resolve aviation weather issues in a timely fashion, (3) reduce the frustration currently experienced by outside agencies and the private sector when attempting to resolve aviation weather issues with the FAA, and (4) facilitate efforts by the FAA to carry out its existing memorandum of agreement with NOAA. Disadvantages. Alternative 2 shares most of the disadvantages listed for Alternative 1. Although Alternative 2 would improve leadership within the FAA regarding the provision of aviation weather services, it does not address interagency issues. Alternative 3. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the FAA. The FAA would be assigned greater responsibility for providing aviation weather services, including some or all of those now provided by the NWS, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other civilian agencies. Thus, this alternative actually encompasses a range of options, depending upon the extent to which aviation weather functions are transferred to the FAA from other agencies. Advantages. In the extreme case, the FAA would assume complete responsibility for directly providing aviation weather services. This would clearly consolidate within a single agency complete responsibility for providing needed leadership, focus, and prioritization for aviation weather services and related research. This would also give the FAA administrator direct control of the assets needed to improve aviation weather services and enhance the safety and efficiency of the national airspace system. More restrained versions of this alternative would share this advantage, although not to the same degree. Disadvantages. The FAA does not currently possess the meteorological facilities or personnel needed to significantly increase its direct responsibility for providing aviation weather services and related research. This alternative would also create the need for the FAA to provide functions that the NWS currently provides. Doing this would involve transferring personnel and equipment from the NWS to the FAA. However, the NWS would need to retain some of the facilities and personnel that support aviation weather because they also support nonaviation meteorological services. Thus, the FAA would probably need to duplicate some of the functions that the NWS would retain. With regard to research and development, the FAA does not have the scientific personnel and facilities to conduct the type of basic and applied research programs that NOAA and NASA currently conduct in support of aviation weather. Also, because many of the research programs in NOAA and NASA also support atmospheric science research that has widespread application beyond aviation, consolidating research and development within the FAA would also increase interagency duplication of effort. Alternative 3 might foster a long-term roles and missions dispute among involved agencies, and approval would require concurrence by numerous congressional committees to reallocate federal responsibilities. Also, even if this approach improved aviation weather services, the duplication of services would increase overall costs. Thus, for budgetary and other reasons, this alternative seems impractical. Alternative 4. Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the NWS. This option is identical to Alternative 3, except that civil aviation weather services would be consolidated (wholly or in part) within the NWS rather than the FAA. Advantages. Alternative 4 would increase the extent to which responsibility for aviation weather resides within the meteorological community. As a result, it would facilitate improvements to meteorological functions and weather products associated with aviation weather. Disadvantages. Because of the NWS's inherent focus on meteorology, this alternative might reduce the extent to which new aviation weather services and products support nonmeteorological users of aviation weather information (e.g., pilots, dispatchers, and air traffic controllers). As discussed in Chapter 3 (pages 38 and 39), aviation weather services would benefit from a greater focus on user needs, which this approach is unlikely to provide. Transferring some or all of the FAA's aviation weather responsibilities to the NWS would involve the transfer of appropriated funds from the Department of Transportation/FAA to the Department of Commerce/NOAA/NWS. Aviation weather would then compete for these funds against other interests within the Department of Commerce. The overall level of aviation weather activities would suffer if federal or congressional

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--> authorities redirected some of the transferred funds to support these other interests. Alternative 5. Establish a new organization to provide aviation weather services and conduct related research. The government would establish a new federal agency, federal corporation, or private corporation to take the lead in providing aviation weather services and conducting related research. Advantages. This radical change to the existing system would result in a new entity that is totally committed to aviation weather. Such a change would diminish involvement in aviation weather by the FAA, NWS, and Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology. Conceivably, this arrangement could ultimately provide a more cost-effective system, particularly if it departs from standard government personnel and procurement practices. Implementation of this option could be addressed as part of the ongoing debate regarding the possible transfer of some FAA functions to a private or federal corporation. Disadvantages. Even more than alternatives 3 and 4, this proposal involves major changes in agency structures, shifts in the oversight responsibility of congressional committees, and fundamental changes in budgetary allocations. Making changes of this scope could take years to achieve and, in the end, it might not succeed. Meanwhile, other alternatives with a higher probability of success would be held in abeyance. A new organization seems likely to increase the management overhead associated with aviation weather services. Establishing a separate aviation weather agency also shares many of the disadvantages associated with increasing the concentration of aviation weather within the FAA or NWS (alternatives 3 and 4, respectively). The new agency would tend to duplicate functions retained by the FAA and NWS, diminish the ability of the FAA to improve aviation safety and efficiency, and probably increase overall costs. Alternative 6. Assign primary responsibility for aviation weather operational services and related research to two different agencies. Alternative 7 could be modified to allow NOAA or NASA to assume primary responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the planning and execution of aviation weather research by the federal government. The FAA would assume primary responsibility for aviation weather services, as described in Alternative 7. Advantages. The FAA is an operational agency that does not have the same depth of scientific research expertise and facilities that NOAA and NASA possess. The FAA already funds NOAA laboratories to conduct a great deal of aviation weather research, and NASA is much more focused on research and development as an institutional mission than is the FAA. As such, these agencies are generally better suited to conduct research programs than is the FAA. Disadvantages. The utility of aviation weather services and systems is a strong function of the extent to which they satisfy user needs. As noted in Chapter 4 (page 46), the committee recommends establishing closer ties between aviation weather research programs and users. Splitting the management of aviation weather operations and research between two agencies does not contribute to achieving this objective. Also, making the FAA responsible for overall coordination of aviation weather research should not diminish its reliance on agencies such as NOAA and NASA to plan and implement specific research efforts in accordance with overall goals established by the FAA. References FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). 1977. Memorandum of Agreement Between the Federal Aviation Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the Establishment of Working Arrangements for Providing Aviation Weather Service and Meteorological Communications. Washington, D.C.: FAA. NRC (National Research Council). 1994. Weather for Those Who Fly. National Weather Service Modernization Committee, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. OFCM (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology). 1992. National Aviation Weather Program Plan. Washington, D.C.: OFCM. USWRP (U.S. Weather Research Program). 1994. U.S. Weather Research Program Implementation Plan. Washington, D.C.: Department of Commerce.