A New Strategic Plan for the National Weather Service (320)

Peyton Robertson, NWS Office of Organizational Excellence, Silver Spring, MD



In light of the rapid changes in technology and Americans' increasing dependence on timely, reliable, and accurate weather, water, and climate information for everyday activities, the National Weather Service (NWS) is undertaking a revision to its strategic plan this year. The last NWS Strategic Plan (2011) served the agency well, but times have changed in the past seven years. As damages continue to trend upward, 2017 set a new record for the U.S. with $306 billion in weather, water, and climate damages. Emergency managers, first responders, and government officials are increasingly relying on weather, water, and climate forecasts and warnings to aid in their decision-making. At the same time, Federal agency budgets are declining and the forecast for future domestic discretionary funding suggests continued flat or declining levels.

The speed at which technology advances is accelerating, leading to a more connected world with greater public expectations for &ldquoreal-time&rdquo information. Mobile sources for receiving information are growing fastest, and people expect tailored weather information to be readily available with precision at the local level. Machine learning and big data are tools available to assist forecasters in communication of uncertainty. The internet of things, robotics, and miniaturization are driving advances in observations. The U.S. weather industry is estimated today at well over $7 billion in market value[1]. These forces and factors set the stage for the new NWS Strategic Plan.

This plan will respond to emerging challenges by drawing on new legislative authority established by the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017. Language in the Act added requirements for the evolution of the NWS, with emphasis in four areas: U.S. Weather Research and Forecasting Improvement, Sub-seasonal and Seasonal Forecasting Innovation, Weather Satellite and Data Innovation, Federal Weather Coordination and Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research. The plan will also draw from previous reports by the National Academy of Public Administration and National Academies of science, along with internal sources such as the NWS Weather Ready Nation Roadmap, to set the direction for the agency from 2018 - 2025.

Adapting to the ever-increasing pace of change will require the National Weather Service to effectively evolve towards a customer-centric service delivery model with corresponding changes to operations, business processes, and the skills and capabilities of our workforce to ensure sustained cost savings and efficiency. We can't do it alone. We must strengthen partnerships with America's Weather Enterprise to leverage the full range of available tools, expanding our collective reach while improving our level of performance. This evolution will require support for our workforce, including training and development in science-based service delivery, increased diversity to drive higher performance, and enhanced support to sustain a healthy organizational culture.

[1] National Weather Service. (2017). National Weather Service Enterprise Analysis Report