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Washington Update: Expansion and Restructuring at NOAA February 10, 2010 NOAA announces plans to establish a NOAA Climate Service On Monday, Feb. 8, the Department of Commerce and NOAA announced plans to establish a NOAA Climate Service to consolidate NOAA's climate-related services, programs, and other functions within a single line office in NOAA, and to "provide a single, reliable and authoritative source for climate data, information, and decision- support services to help individuals, businesses, communities and governments make smart choices in anticipation of a climate changed future." The NOAA Climate Service will be a major component of the effort to establish a coordinated and integrated government-wide National Climate Service. The Service will be based at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., with Regional Climate Services in six regions across the nation. Tom Karl, current head of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., has been tapped to be Transitional Director. Six Regional Directors will also be hired. Regional offices will be co-located with the NWS regional offices and will be responsible for climate activities across all of NOAA in each of the six weather service regions. Each Regional Service will be required to develop and execute a Regional Climate Services Strategic Plan and work with regional partners in other Federal agencies, state, local and tribal governments, universities, the private sector, and NGOs. The following NOAA programs and offices will be incorporated within the NOAA Climate Service: (1) from the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information System (NESDIS) line office, (a) the National Climatic Data Center, including the Regional Climate Centers; (b) the National Oceanographic Data Center; and (c) the National Geophysical Data Center; (2) from the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) line office, (a) the Earth System Research Laboratory; (b) the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; and (c) the Climate Program Office, and (3) from the National Weather Service (NWS), the Climate Observing Network, including the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean and Historical Climate Network. Additionally, NOAA has launched a new NOAA Climate Portal, Climate.gov. The Portal serves as a single point of entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services, addresses the needs of five broadly-defined user groups: decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business users, and the public. Its features include a new climate science magazine called ClimateWatch, a global climate dashboard with a range of constantly updating climate datasets over adjustable time scales, and other web sections providing predictions, a data library, and educational tools. The success of the NOAA Climate Services plan and reorganization will depend in part upon approval from Congressional appropriators. Congress designates funds to NOAA annually in Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, and it specifies funding amounts by line office. For this reason, NOAA will need to submit a formal reprogramming package for approval by the Office of Management and Budget and Congress as quickly as possible. Following Congressional approval, NOAA will move quickly to implement the proposed reorganization. The goal is to have a functional climate service up and running by early FY 2011. Beyond appropriations, Congressional authorization is not explicitly required for the formation of a NOAA Climate Service. The National Climate Program Act of 1978 provides NOAA with ample authority to move forward. However, updated legislative authorization that reflects the latest science and service approaches would ultimately be helpful. Authorization for a National Climate Service was included in the Waxman- Markey climate bill that the House of Representatives passed last June, and a similar version was included in the Kerry-Boxer legislation considered in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last October. UCAR and the Office of Government Affairs are following the climate bills closely and working to ensure community priorities, like a formal role for participation and membership of the academic community in a National Climate Service, are incorporated into the final version of climate legislation. Perhaps of most importance to the UCAR community, the proposed NOAA Climate Service will provide an new opportunity for NOAA to be an effective partner with other federal agencies, the private sector, and the research and academic community. In particular, it is critical that UCAR and its member universities have a process by which we can contribute our knowledge in research, modeling, and other expertise to the proposed Climate Service. Planning for the NOAA Climate Service has been, and continues to be, shaped by input from NOAA employees and stakeholders across the country, with close consideration given to the recommendations of the NOAA Science Advisory Board, National Academies, and National Academy of Public Administration. Administrator Lubchenco says that the new NOAA Climate Service will “work closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners." Learn more about the proposed NOAA Climate Service from the Climate Service Q&A. NOAA undergoing restructuring to accommodate growth In an effort to restructure NOAA to accommodate new programs like the NOAA Climate Service and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) (the civilian portion of the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)) and to keep up with expanding demands, NOAA Administrator Lubchenco is implementing the Next Generation Strategic Plan for NOAA. The Plan calls for several shifts to the headquarters leadership structure, including the addition of several senior-level administration positions. Notably, NOAA is adding two senior-level political appointees: an Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Predictions and a Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries. As mentioned in our last Washington Update, President Obama has nominated Navy scientist Timothy McGee for the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Predictions position. McGee's nomination is still pending, awaiting hearings before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. NOAA is also reinstating the position of NOAA Chief Scientist, and making it a vital part of the headquarters leadership team. This position will be on a par with the two Assistant Secretary positions. It is anticipated that the Chief Scientist will become the Chair of the NOAA Research Council, and the OAR assistant administrator would serve as vice-chair of the NOAA Research Council. Furthermore, as leader of the central research line office, it is expected that the OAR assistant administrator will become a major advisor to the Chief Scientist. The NOAA Research Council, under the Chief Scientist's lead, will play a bigger role in evaluating research activities, planning, and integrating research across NOAA. As part of this process, the Senior Science Advisor Dr. Paul Sandifer, acting on behalf of the Office of the NOAA Chief Scientist, is working with the NOAA Research Council to develop corporate guidance for establishing consistent, agency-wide peer review and monitoring processes for all NOAA scientific activities, including an annual State of NOAA Research Report. The Chief Scientist position and the two new Assistant Secretary positions are currently vacant.
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