The National Weather Service
and Associated Restructuring
A RETROSPECTIVE ASSESSMENT
Committee on the Assessment of the
National Weather Service’s Modernization Program
Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under contract number DG133R08CQ0062, Task Order #8. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor or any of its sub agencies.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-21798-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-21798-9
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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COMMITTEE ON THE ASSESSMENT OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE’S MODERNIZATION PROGRAM
JOHN A. ARMSTRONG (Chair), Retired, IBM Corporation, Amherst, Massachusetts
JAMES D. DOYLE, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
PAMELA EMCH, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California
WILLIAM B. GAIL, Microsoft Corporation and Global Weather Corporation, Boulder, Colorado
DAVID J. GOCHIS, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
HOSHIN V. GUPTA, University of Arizona, Tucson
HOLLY HARTMANN, University of Arizona, Tucson
KEVIN A. KLOESEL, University of Oklahoma, Norman
NICHOLAS LAMPSON, Retired, United States House of Representatives, Beaumont, Texas
JOHN W. MADDEN, Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Fort Richardson
GORDON MCBEAN, University of Western Ontario, Canada
DAVID J. MCLAUGHLIN, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
ADRIAN E. RAFTERY, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMES L. RASMUSSEN, Retired, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Frederick, Maryland
PAUL L. SMITH, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City
JOHN TOOHEY-MORALES, NBC-6 WTVJ-TV and ClimaData, Miami, Florida
MAGGIE WALSER, Study Director
RICARDO PAYNE, Senior Program Assistant
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The Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR) of the National Weather Service (NWS) was a large and complex reengineering of a federal agency. The process lasted a decade and cost an estimated $4.5 billion. The result was greater integration of science into weather service activities and improved outreach and coordination with users of weather information. It was responsible for a marked increase in the accuracy and timeliness of forecast and warning services provided to the nation by the NWS. The modernized NWS was achieved through the development and deployment of new observational and computational systems and redefining the NWS field office structure to best utilize the investment in the new technologies.
The MAR was both necessary and generally well executed. However, it required revolutionary, often difficult, changes. The procurement of large, complex technical systems presented challenges in and of itself. The MAR also affected the career paths and personal lives of a large portion of the field office workforce. The MAR created a new, modernized NWS, and, significantly, it created a framework that will allow the NWS to keep up with technological changes in a more evolutionary manner. In addition to this new framework, the MAR also resulted in many “Lessons Learned” for the NWS. It is our hope that the NWS will apply the lessons we have identified in this report as they map their future direction.
This report contains the first part of the committee’s work, a retrospective assessment of the MAR with a focus on lessons learned from the effort to plan, deploy, and oversee the MAR. The second phase of our work will apply the lessons learned from the MAR to advise NWS on how best to plan, deploy, and oversee future improvements, and will be presented in a second report.
This congressionally requested report presents the first comprehensive assessment of the execution of the MAR and its impact on the provision of weather services in the United States. This assessment would not have been possible without the assistance of many of our colleagues in the weather enterprise. The committee would like to acknowledge the many individuals who briefed us, provided written information, or other technical information. They include Carl Bjerkaas, Gary Carter, Valery Dagostaro, Joe Facundo, George Frederick, Joe Friday, Mary Glackin, Richard Hallgren, Jack Hayes, Rick Heuwinkel, Richard Hirn, Fiona Horsfall, Jack Kelly, Chuck Kluepfel, Ken Kraus, Sandy MacDonald, Lauren Marone, Frank Misciasci, Joel Myers, Vickie Nadolski, Tim Owen, Maria Pirone, Bill Proenza, Barry Reichenbaugh, Buddy Ritchie, Jae-Kyung Schemm, Bob Serafin, John Sokich, Margaret Spring, Louis Uccellini, Rich Vogt, Glenn White, and Doug Young.
The committee is particularly grateful to the NWS staff who hosted committee member Weather Forecast Office (WFO) site visits. They include Pat Baye, Eric Boldt, Dave Carpenter, Brad Coleman, Glenn Field, Michael Foster, Bob Glancy, Gene Hafele, Robert Hopkins, Mark Jackson, Jayme Laber, Jim Lee, Harold Opitz, Robin Radlein, David Reynolds, Nezette Rydell, Glen Sampson, Susan Sanders, Pablo
Santos, Robert Thompson, Steve Todd, David Vallee, and Steve Zubrick.
We would also like to acknowledge the NWS staff who assisted with our survey of WFOs collocated with academic or other research institutions. They include Peter Ahnert, Jonathan Blaes, Bruce Budd, Dave Carpenter, Tony Hall, Ray O’Keefe, Rhett Milne, David Reynolds, Nezette Rydell, Glen Sampson, Dennis Staley, Ray Tanabe, and Mark Tew.
Our sincerest thanks are extended to Edward Johnson and John Sokich for providing information and helping with access to NWS staff and facilities. The committee is greatly indebted to Study Director Maggie Walser and to Senior Program Assistant Ricardo Payne for their expert support.
John A. Armstrong, Chair
Committee on the Assessment of
the National Weather Service’s
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in their review of this report:
Leo Andreoli, Retired, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corporation, Torrance, California
Grady Booch, IBM Research, Littleton, Colorado
William Hooke, American Meteorological Society, Washington, DC
Roger Pielke Sr., Colorado State University, Fort Collins
Maria Pirone, Harris Corporation, Washington, DC
Erik Pytlak, Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, Oregon
Robert Serafin, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
George Smith, Riverside Technology, Inc., Moneta, Virginia
Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
Joseph Yura, Retired, University of Texas, Austin
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Dr. Margaret LeMone, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO. Appointed by the Report Review Committee, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Institutional oversight for this project was provided by
BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE
ANTONIO J. BUSALACCHI, JR. (Chair), University of Maryland, College Park
GERALD A. MEEHL (Vice Chair), National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
RICHARD CARBONE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
KIRSTIN DOW, University of South Carolina, Columbia
GREG S. FORBES, The Weather Channel, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia
LISA GODDARD, Columbia University, New York, New York
ISAAC HELD, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, New Jersey
ANTHONY JANETOS, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Maryland, College Park
HAROON S. KHESHGI, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Annandale, New Jersey
MICHAEL D. KING, University of Colorado, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics, Boulder, Colorado
JOHN E. KUTZBACH, University of Wisconsin, Madison
ARTHUR LEE, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, California
ROBERT J. LEMPERT, The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California
ROGER B. LUKAS, University of Hawaii, Honolulu
SUMANT NIGAM, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, College Park, Maryland
RAYMOND T. PIERREHUMBERT, University of Chicago, Illinois
KIMBERLY PRATHER, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
RICH RICHELS, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., Washington, DC
DAVID A. ROBINSON, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey
KIRK R. SMITH, University of California, Berkeley
JOHN T. SNOW, University of Oklahoma, Norman
CLAUDIA TEBALDI, Climate Central, Princeton, New Jersey
XUBIN ZENG, University of Arizona, Tucson
CHRIS ELFRING, Director
EDWARD DUNLEA, Senior Program Officer
LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer
MAGGIE WALSER, Program Officer
KATIE WELLER, Associate Program Officer
LAUREN BROWN, Research Associate
RITA GASKINS, Administrative Coordinator
ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate
SHELLY FREELAND, Senior Program Assistant
RICARDO PAYNE, Senior Program Assistant
AMANDA PURCELL, Senior Program Assistant
ELIZABETH FINKLEMAN, Program Assistant
GRAIG MANSFIELD, Financial Associate