NWS Industrial Meteorology

Policy and Guidelines Governing National Weather Service and Private Sector Roles (A-06)

Note: This policy is no longer in effect. For current policy, see: NOAA Policy on Partnerships in the Provision of Environmental Information

Summary of Comments and Responses to Draft Policy Statement:

Comment - Comments were received that expressed concern on the part of the private weather industry to what it perceives as a limited role for it in providing weather service to the general public.
Response - The National Weather Service (NWS) firmly believes that the private weather industry plays an important and essential role as a partner in ensuring that the Nation receives the full benefit of weather and hydrometeorological information for promoting protection of life and property and economic prosperity. The final policy statement more clearly defines areas in which the NWS and the private weather industry will provide such products and services as well as a mechanism to implement the policy.

Comment - Under the section entitled General Criteria, the NWS noncompetition paragraph will be better stated "The NWS will not compete with the private sector in those areas where the private sector services are available." Along these same lines, a responder voiced concern over the NWS providing specialized agricultural services. Another expressed concern about the NWS withdrawing from providing these same services.
Response - The NWS will not-compete with the private sector when a service is currently provided or can be provided by commercial enterprises, unless otherwise directed by applicable law (e.g., the provision of NOAA's Appropriations Act concerning the fruit frost program which has attracted some private sector interest). The NWS will also assure the public of continuation of services when those services are not available from the private sector, unless directed otherwise.

Comment - Implication of the use of the words "single" and "official", especially in combination, is of great concern to one of the responders. He states that if the connotation of the use of the word "official" means "governmental", then the wording is not objectionable but, if there is any intent here which suggests that by making the NWS the "single official voice," that the private weather industry is to be restricted or limited in any way in providing to the public its own weather forecasts or information regarding severe weather or floods, then this is a serious incursion into the area of Freedom of Speech.
Response - In order to avoid confusion on the part of the public it is vital that there be one single "official" voice when issuing warnings of life threatening situations. The policy statement is not intended to discourage or preclude the private sector from providing comments and advice on publicly issued warnings, but the distinction between the NWS "official" warning and these comments and interpretations of it must be clear to the public. This is in no way a restraint on freedom of speech.

Comment - Placing scientific data, especially real-time information, that can affect decisions concerning life and property and the ability of firms in the private weather sector, as well as individual meteorologists and scientists to assess, analyze, comment upon, predict from, and disseminate information, is of grave concern. Placing such resources in the hands of a limited number of major corporations who have control, not only over the collection of the data but its dissemination and the establishment of the price that will be paid for the receipt of the data, coupled with the ability to pick and choose who may be given access to the data, needs to be stopped.
Response - The NWS provides access to near real-time alphanumeric and graphical data through a variety of ways. This access is open to anyone in the marketplace who signs an agreement with the NWS or a contractor who has been competitively selected to provide specialized services for the delivery of and access to data by the private sector and others requiring that data. An example is the Contel ASC contract to deliver the NWWS to the Government and other subscribers around the Nation at an agreed to price. Contel (now GTE), like any NWS contractor, cannot pick and choose who receives the data but is required to provide the data both efficiently and at a more reasonable price than the NWS could do itself.

Comment - One responder expressed concern over the direct participation of NWS personnel with the radio and television media.
Response - The policy limits direct NWS participation with the radio and television media to those situations requiring urgent public action, as in the case of severe or extreme weather and flooding or to education and preparedness activities.

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