A note on National Weather Service operations under a government shutdown scenario

For many of you, it may not be the first agency that comes to mind when a government shutdown is discussed. But for some, especially those who are under a risk of severe weather during the potential shutdown, the National Weather Service (NWS), under the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is near the top of the list of “operations that need to continue to function.”

The mission of the NWS (quoted from their website – www.weather.gov) is this:
The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.  (emphasis added by the author)

Due to the “protection of life and property” clause in that mission statement, there is no reason to wonder whether a government shutdown will affect the ability of your local NWS office to issue timely forecasts, watches, warnings, or other hazardous weather products.  All mission-critical activities at the NWS will continue to operate during a government shutdown, should one occur.  The NWS falls into the same category as the military, FBI, air traffic controllers, prison guard, etc.  Their work is required to maintain the safety and well-being of the general public.  In fact, in the document referenced below (second link, page 8), the first item stated that shall be maintained during a lapse in FY11 appropriations is “weather forecasting and alerts.”

So, IF Congress cannot reach a budget settlement to get them through the remainder of the fiscal year prior to midnight tonight, don’t worry about whether Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will be issued or whether radars and radios will continue to operate or the computer models will continue to churn out impressive amounts of data hourly.  They will, and the public will continue to receive the same exceptional levels of service they have become accustomed to from the foremost authorities on weather and climate in the world.

For more information:
Agencies scramble to define critical functions as shutdown looms – NextGov.gov

Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations – Dept. of Commerce (very detailed)

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