National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Date Posted: February 17, 2016

For 140 years, the National Weather Service has provided weather, water, and climate information to protect life and property and enhance the national economy. By its 150th anniversary, the NWS envisions a Weather-Ready Nation in which society is prepared for and responds to weather-dependent events. A new Strategic Plan, published online July 1, lays out the anticipated future service needs and developments in science and technology, as well as establishes meaningful goals and objectives that define a Weather-Ready Nation.

This long term goal of a Weather-Ready Nation is an especially critical one as America becomes increasingly vulnerable to high-impact events. So far this year, more than 530 people have been killed by tornadoes. The nation has already experienced eight separate billion-dollar weather disasters, approaching $32 billion in damages. This is the highest damage cost-to-date since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking the statistic in 1980. In addition, population growth, growing infrastructure threats, and an increasingly interdependent economy are creating new challenges for the country.

Taking this changing landscape into consideration, the NWS is developing a Roadmap, to be completed in the coming months, which outlines the key activities and milestones critical to achieving the goals of the Strategic Plan. Overall, the Roadmap paves the way for a new model of doing business that emphasizes an environment of services in which products and warnings are coupled with NWS partner efforts to better prepare the American public for environmental events. Combining four separate plans, the Roadmap covers the following areas: Services, Science and Technology, Workforce Evolution and Business.

The Services Plan defines NWS services of the future and how they will be managed, communicated, promoted, and executed. Technological solutions are defined in the Science and Technology Plan in order to meet future services needs and IT infrastructure issues. The Workforce Evolution Plan addresses the strategic management of the workforce during the next five to 10 years and outlines the training and tools required to enable the implementation of future services. From a financial perspective, the Business Plan lays out the current cost of services, the investment required to implement new initiatives and calculates the anticipated Return on Investment.

This new path laid out by the Roadmap will enable the NWS to achieve three key outcomes. First, America will become a Weather-Ready nation through superior Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS).  IDSS will allow NWS personnel to better understand Core Partners’ and users’ needs, thresholds and decision criteria.  Secondly, in an environment of continuous improvement, the agency’s increasingly accurate and timely forecasts, warnings, and information will save more lives and further enhance the U.S. economy. Finally, federal, state, and local governments will increasingly depend on NWS as a trusted and reliable source of weather, water, and climate information — from the community to the global level.

It is an exciting time as the NWS makes preparations to become more capable, better equipped, and more agile in service delivery. Ultimately, the role of the National Weather Service remains saving lives and livelihoods, and the need for that today is even greater than it was 20 years ago. The Roadmap represents an important step in building a Weather-Ready nation by enabling the NWS to adapt to new challenges and innovatively meet the country’s changing needs through the maximizing of the combined strengths of the agency and its partners.