|Nov. 1, 2016
On the Record
With a growing population at risk, an economy that is increasingly vulnerable to weather, an aging infrastructure and a changing climate, the National Weather Service is taking steps to evolve into an even more effective agency.
As part of this process, we are considering ways to realign staff and functions to deliver weather forecasts and warnings more effectively. We are not proposing to close local forecast offices. The proposal has all forecasts and warnings continuing to be issued by the local forecast offices to their communities. The products, services, data and information that communities and businesses have come to rely upon will still be provided by the NWS, but with more accuracy and consistency.
This is not an effort to automate forecasts, or issue forecasts from Washington, D.C., or another central location. This initiative will use a national blend of weather models as an initial starting point for forecasts, to achieve national consistency and more accuracy. Our local forecasters will take the initial national forecast and contribute their local knowledge and expertise before issuing forecasts and warnings to the public. We are building a collaborative forecast process that will involve all NWS offices at all levels of the agency.
We are not proposing to reduce our workforce. Everyone who has a job today will still have a job. The ideas and proposals of this initiative were developed with and by our workforce over a two-year period, with union members on the development teams.
Before being implemented, proposed changes will go through a rigorous and transparent test and evaluation phase to ensure they maintain or increase the accuracy of our forecasts and improve the decision support services we provide to a wide range of decision-makers at the local, state and federal levels.
Background for Reporters
We are proposing to continue the transformational shift from merely producing forecasts and warnings to linking those forecasts and warnings to decision-makers who are on the front lines saving lives and property. We call this active linkage Impact-based Decision Support Services, or IDSS. Our forecasters already provide IDSS, but we’ve heard loud and clear from our core partners at the local, state and federal levels and from analysis by the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Research Council that we need to provide better quality, quantity, and consistent IDSS to achieve the goal of building a Weather-Ready Nation – one that is ready, responsive and resilient to extreme weather, water and climate events.
We will ultimately test seven ideas that were generated by our workforce to free up our forecasters’ time and break down barriers that are impeding their ability to meet the nation’s growing need for IDSS. In the coming year, our priority is to test three of these ideas, which are: use of the National Blend of Models to initialize the National Digital Forecast Database, use of autolaunchers to automate sending up weather balloons, and the GS 5-12 career progression, which would ensure aggressive hiring and training processes and give our forecasters increased flexibility to serve our core partners and general public and to provide IDSS required at the local, state and federal levels.
These proposals were developed with and by the NWS workforce via five field teams as we analyzed and refined ideas that came out of an operations and workforce analysis conducted by McKinsey and Company. These teams included representatives from the National Weather Service Employees Organization at every step. As we move forward, we will continue our efforts to evolve the NWS, we will continue the robust internal and external engagement, seeking input and collaboration from our workforce and our partners throughout the country as we develop and test, refine and finally implement changes that will make the NWS Second to None.
Susan Buchanan, acting director of public affairs, National Weather Service
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