Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sequestration and the National Weather Service

Source: Reuters/Brian Snyder
There was an article in the Washington Post earlier this week discussing one of the impacts of the budget sequester on the National Weather Service: The furloughing of workers for as little as 4 and as many as 10 days.  The latter would be invoked if NOAA is not allowed to reprogram their budget to cover labor costs.

One of the challenges facing the NWS when they furlough is the fact that weather never sleeps.  NWS operations are 24/7.  There is no option for a four-day work week.  Humans are especially critical for issuing and communicating severe weather watches and warnings, including those for tornadoes, tropical storms, and hurricanes.  That being said, NWS forecasters are extremely dedicated and I expect that they will do all they can to ensure this aspect of NWS operations does not suffer.  They will plug many holes in the dike this year, but it is difficult to imagine that this is a "passing storm."

The challenge facing the NWS is how to efficiently advance weather services for the nation in an era of constrained (possibly greatly constrained) budgets.  New NWS Director Louis Uccellini has taken on one tough assignment, but can elect not to "waste a good crisis."  At issue is whether or not he and other managers at NOAA and the NWS can make good strategic decisions to benefit the nation and the weather enterprise during and beyond these difficult times.  I wish them luck.

Disclosure: The author receives research support from the NOAA/National Weather Service Collaborative Science, Technology, and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program.

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