1
Introduction

Background of MARD

Public Law 100-685, which was passed in 1988, authorized the modernization and associated restructuring of the National Weather Service (NWS). This law also set forth the initial requirements for what has become known as the Modernization and Restructuring Demonstration (MARD). Initially, MARD was to be performed after major changes to all of the technical systems had been implemented and selected field offices had been restructured according to the approved plan. Legislation passed in 1992 redefined the MARD requirement to make it a part of the National Implementation Plan for the modernization. The specifics of the plan were spelled out in the legislation:

. . . special measures to test, evaluate, and demonstrate key elements of the modernized National Weather Service operations prior to national implementation, including a multistation operational demonstration which tests the performance of the modernization in an integrated manner for a sustained period . . .

Public Law 102-567, Section 703(a)(4)

This redefinition uncoupled the multistation operational demonstration (i.e., MARD) from the certification of NWS field offices.

Role of the National Weather Service Modernization Committee

In July 1989, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested that the National Research Council establish a committee to review the modernization and restructuring of the NWS (NOAA, 1989). The council responded by establishing the National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWSMC) in that same year.

In 1992 the NWSMC designated a number of its members as a MARD panel, whose task was to assess the evolving plan for MARD and report to the full committee. During the intervening years, the MARD panel and the full committee have discussed several draft versions of an NWS plan for MARD. The committee has commented on the MARD planning process in several previous reports to the NWS (NRC, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995).

In its most recent Statement of Task (1995), the NWSMC was charged with reviewing the MARD plan. On September 10, 1998 the National Research Council approved a review of the current MARD plan including the following areas:

  • MARD objectives and goals
  • measures planned to test, evaluate, and demonstrate key elements of the modernized NWS, with emphasis on the effectiveness of weather forecast office (WFO) operations, including workload and staff utilization
  • measures planned to evaluate the quality of modernized service, including the satisfaction of user groups
  • measures planned to test and evaluate the operational effectiveness of a network of WFOs, river forecast centers (RFCs), and the national centers for environmental prediction (NCEPs), with emphasis on the adequacy of coordination and backup strategies
  • identification of any major deficiency that could impact the full implementation of modernized and restructured operations

Overview of the MARD Plan

Draft 3 of the Modernization and Associated Restructuring Demonstration Plan (referred to hereafter as the MARD Plan), dated September 1998, is the basis for the committee's review in Chapter 2. This overview highlights only those aspects of the plan that are significant for the committee's review and is not meant to cover the entire plan.



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1 Introduction Background of MARD Public Law 100-685, which was passed in 1988, authorized the modernization and associated restructuring of the National Weather Service (NWS). This law also set forth the initial requirements for what has become known as the Modernization and Restructuring Demonstration (MARD). Initially, MARD was to be performed after major changes to all of the technical systems had been implemented and selected field offices had been restructured according to the approved plan. Legislation passed in 1992 redefined the MARD requirement to make it a part of the National Implementation Plan for the modernization. The specifics of the plan were spelled out in the legislation: . . . special measures to test, evaluate, and demonstrate key elements of the modernized National Weather Service operations prior to national implementation, including a multistation operational demonstration which tests the performance of the modernization in an integrated manner for a sustained period . . . Public Law 102-567, Section 703(a)(4) This redefinition uncoupled the multistation operational demonstration (i.e., MARD) from the certification of NWS field offices. Role of the National Weather Service Modernization Committee In July 1989, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested that the National Research Council establish a committee to review the modernization and restructuring of the NWS (NOAA, 1989). The council responded by establishing the National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWSMC) in that same year. In 1992 the NWSMC designated a number of its members as a MARD panel, whose task was to assess the evolving plan for MARD and report to the full committee. During the intervening years, the MARD panel and the full committee have discussed several draft versions of an NWS plan for MARD. The committee has commented on the MARD planning process in several previous reports to the NWS (NRC, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995). In its most recent Statement of Task (1995), the NWSMC was charged with reviewing the MARD plan. On September 10, 1998 the National Research Council approved a review of the current MARD plan including the following areas: MARD objectives and goals measures planned to test, evaluate, and demonstrate key elements of the modernized NWS, with emphasis on the effectiveness of weather forecast office (WFO) operations, including workload and staff utilization measures planned to evaluate the quality of modernized service, including the satisfaction of user groups measures planned to test and evaluate the operational effectiveness of a network of WFOs, river forecast centers (RFCs), and the national centers for environmental prediction (NCEPs), with emphasis on the adequacy of coordination and backup strategies identification of any major deficiency that could impact the full implementation of modernized and restructured operations Overview of the MARD Plan Draft 3 of the Modernization and Associated Restructuring Demonstration Plan (referred to hereafter as the MARD Plan), dated September 1998, is the basis for the committee's review in Chapter 2. This overview highlights only those aspects of the plan that are significant for the committee's review and is not meant to cover the entire plan.

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MARD Goals and Objectives The Introduction (Section 1) of the MARD Plan lists the following goals: Validate the WFO concept (one-tier operating structure). Refine new operational procedures and resolve implementation issues. Demonstrate that the quality of warnings and forecasts has not been degraded by modernized and restructured operations. The one-tier operating structure is the replacement for the previous two-tier structure of NWS forecast offices and smaller NWS offices with a single tier of WFOs. Section 3 of the plan includes a list of objectives that the MARD evaluation methodology is meant to implement (see Box 1-1). According to the plan, meeting these objectives will accomplish the MARD goals (MARD Plan, p. 1.). Activities Prior to the MARD Section 2 divides the modernization and restructuring into two stages. The division appears to be based on whether an activity will have been completed prior to MARD or will continue during MARD. This section also describes the risk reduction activities that were used to test and evaluate various aspects of the modernization prior to MARD. MARD Assumptions and Constraints Most of the assumptions (Section 4) pertain to the BOX 1-1 MARD Evaluation Objectives 1.   Measure the operational effectiveness of WFOs: the ability of the forecast team (meteorologist(s) and hydrometeorological technician) to complete the assigned workload (e.g., operations, CPM [county preparedness meteorologist], required training, etc.) using only acceptable overtime and nonoperational personnel involvement. This evaluation is based on using current AWIPS [Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System] capabilities and meeting Objectives 3 and 4. 2.   Measure the operational effectiveness of a network of WFOs and other elements of the modernized forecast process. Specifically: Evaluate coordination between WFOs, RFCs, and NCEPS on forecasts and warnings to ensure no marked discontinuity across WFO boundaries and to ensure a reasonable coordination workload at each office. Evaluate service backup to determine if it is sustainable and if it produces timely, quality products and services at the office being backed up and at the offices(s) providing the support; determine if the worked for the office(s) providing the backup is acceptable. 3.   Determine customer satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of WFO products and services. This may be based on: Comparison of customer satisfaction before restructuring based on user survey responses, An indication of overall satisfaction with the quality of products and services, Survey results that fall within the range of ''acceptable norms" of customer satisfaction based on generalized survey results from many locations. 4.   Validate that WFO warnings and forecasts are overall as good or better than premodernization and restructuring products. Validate that warnings and forecasts from spin-up offices (former NWSOs [National Weather Service office]) are equivalent in quality, accuracy, and timeliness to those from WFOs that were former NWSFOs [National Weather Service forecast offices]. 5.   Determine the adequacy of MAR [modernization and restructuring] technology in supporting modernized operations. Source: MARD Plan, p. 4.

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workload of field offices and the relation of staffing levels during MARD to staffing levels targeted for the end of restructuring into a single tier of forecast offices ("end-state staffing"). These assumptions provide important ground rules for evaluating the first MARD objective (see Box 1-1). Other assumptions state that the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) does not have to be commissioned for MARD to begin but that AWIPS will be commissioned before MARD ends. Another assumption is that the MARD will last for one year. Constraints on MARD are listed in Section 4.2. The first two are crucial for understanding why MARD evolved into its present form: "(1) MARD is designed to fulfill a requirement outlined in Public Law 102-567," and "(2) the operations and evaluation of the MARD must be consistent with the MARD budget." The third and fourth constraints reflect the original intent of the MARD: "(3) AWIPS capabilities must be sufficiently mature to demonstrate 'modernized operations' '' and "(4) All MARD offices must be conducting restructured operations." ("Restructured operations" are defined in Section 4.1 to mean that the public forecast program and the convective watch and warning program are responsibilities of the field offices participating in MARD.) Participating Office Functions Eight WFOs and two RFCs will participate in MARD (Section 5). The areas of responsibility for these adjacent offices form a roughly rectangular area, which includes nearly all of Kansas and Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas (Figure 1-1). This area was selected for MARD in part for the frequency and diversity of significant weather that typically occurs there. Roles of National Weather Service Personnel and Special Evaluation Teams Sections 6 and 7 specify the people who will direct and conduct MARD and the staffing of the 10 field offices participating in MARD. Outside support services are mentioned as assisting in collecting, processing, and analyzing evaluation data and surveys. The role of the NWSMC in reviewing FIGURE 1-1 MARD area.

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the MARD Plan (but not the MARD event) is noted. Otherwise, all the MARD participants are NWS employees. Technical Systems Section 8 describes how the county-by-county approach for interoffice service backup relates to the overlapping coverage provided by adjacent next-generation weather radars (NEXRADs).1 The operational version of AWIPS is scheduled to be installed in June 1999 but is not expected to be commissioned until early 2000, more than halfway through MARD. Official products will be disseminated by legacy systems until AWIPS is commissioned at a given field office, after which that office will use the AWIPS Communication Network. Section 8 does not specify which technical systems will be used for interoffice service backup before or after AWIPS is commissioned. Pre-MARD Exercise and Other Preparations for MARD Section 10 states that all MARD sites must be operating with AWIPS Build 4.2 before MARD begins and that a MARD readiness checklist must be completed by each office to confirm that the office is prepared to begin MARD. Section 11 describes a six to eight week exercise, scheduled for early 1999, to validate operational procedures and provide baseline operational statistics. Concept of MARD Operations Section 11 notes that the one-year duration for MARD will begin when the assistant administrator for weather services (who is also the director of the NWS) considers the MARD field offices to be ready. The MARD is expected to begin in June 1999. This section also describes how an extra forecaster, beyond the end-state staffing for some MARD sites, may be used to ensure an operational "safety net" when significant weather cannot be handled by the scheduled staff.2 MARD Verification, Evaluation Methodology, and Measures of Success Section 12 and Appendix A describe the plan for verifying that the weather services provided by the NWS have not been degraded as a result of the modernization. Section 13 describes the methodology by which the NWS will evaluate how well it has met the five MARD objectives (listed in Box 1-1). 1   Traditionally, some interoffice backup arrangements have assigned different products for a given geographic area, defined by county boundaries, to different backup offices. In the "county-by-county" approach, all products for an area are assigned to one backup office. For most WFOs, all or most of the counties in a field office's warning area will be assigned to one backup office, as is currently done. 2   The provision for an extra forecaster during some shifts at some MARD sites may be eliminated. In previous reports, the NWSMC has expressed concern that the end-state staffing levels may not be sufficient during the transition period (NRC, 1991, pp. 55–57; NRC, 1992, pp. 61–62).