Doing Business With the National Weather Service

Information about National Weather Service<@VM>The CIO file: Barry West

Major Contacts

Weather Wire Service Replacement System

Value: $29.4 million over 10 years

Awarded: Sept. 30, 1999

Winner: DynCorp

Purpose: The wire service is the primary distribution system for hydrometeorological and other environmental information in plain language to the media, emergency management agencies and other users. It is a satellite system using a 30-inch receiving dish. Users can select and receive the products they want.

Information Technology Support Services

Value: $24 million over 5 years

Awarded: Feb. 22, 1999

Winner: RS Information Systems Inc.

Purpose: RSIS provides science support services such as programming and analysis, modeling, forecasting technique development, workstation support, network planning and administration, and help desk.

International Satellite Communication System

Value: $11.6 million over 7 years

Awarded: Dec. 9, 2002

Winner: WorldCom

Purpose: WorldCom provides two-way and broadcast satellite communication facilities and technical support services for the International Satellite Communication System to collect and distribute weather information.
Source: Input

Opportunites with NWS

GSA Schedule Contractors

Value: $40 million

RFP: Expected June 2004

Purpose: The weather service will use the GSA schedule to maintain and operate the National Data Buoy System. The system collects environmental data from the oceans that is used to aid weather forecasts and warnings. The work currently is being done by Science Applications International Corp.

National Weather Service IT Support

Value: $24 million

RFP: Expected February 2003

Purpose: The weather service needs a variety of science support services such as programming and analysis, modeling, forecasting technique development, workstation support, network planning and administration, and help desk. RSIS is the incumbent contractor.
Source: Input

Things to note

The president's fiscal 2004 budget for NWS seeks to enhance, using science and technology, what the administration already considers a successful agency. Some programs getting more money: Next Generation Radar added $3.7 million; Telecommunications Gateway Legacy Replacement added almost $3 million; All Hazard National Warning Radio: NOAA Weather Radio added $5.5 million.

NWS' accuracy in predicting severe weather includes a 12-minute lead time in tornado warnings and 89 percent accuracy for warnings of flash flood and winter storms. NWS has been praised by the Bush administration for its performance improvements, especially in weather forecasting, such as its system of advanced notice of severe weather and better aviation weather news. (Bad weather accounts for 70 percent of air traffic delays.)

As the nation's chief weather forecaster, NWS main homepage provides detailed information beginning with a map of the entire country with a color-coded weather legend. You click on the area in question and a get a specific forecast. This makes for a great general information Web site. However, information for doing business with the agency is much harder to find. I found a more helpful place to start.

Do you talk about this weather? Sure, we all do. Some of the more notable weather incidents in this country and some history of the weather service can be found at


National Weather Service
1325 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, Md. 20910
(301) 713-0689

Founded: Feb. 9, 1870

Director: John "Jack" Kelly Jr.

What it does: The National Weather Service provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and oceans. It is the official U.S. agency for issuing warnings of severe weather. It provides data and products for a national information database that may be used by other organizations, both public and private.

Organization: The National Weather Service comes under the guise of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration within the Commerce Department. NWS divides its coverage into six regions, and there are 122 forecast offices throughout the nation and some territories. There are also regional and national support centers nationwide.

The budget

2004 budget request: $824 million

2003 budget: $800 million

2002 budget: $743 million

Barry West, National Weather Service CIO

Henrik de Gyor

Official title: Chief Information Officer

Took the job: May 2002

Hometown: Smithsburg, Md.

Home now: Crofton, Md.

Family: Married to Laurie (Zadd) West. Two children: son Steven, 19; daughter Tiffany, 16.

Hobbies: Loves motorcycling. Owns two Harley-Davidsons, a Sportster and a 100th anniversary Road King Classic. Also enjoys bicycling, running and deer hunting.

Last book read: "Leadership" by Rudolph Giuliani

Alma mater: Bachelors in information systems from Northern Michigan University; master of science in administration from Central Michigan University; master of science in information technology and executive CIO certificate from the University of Maryland

WT: What are the IT challenges the agency faces?

West: Some major challenges that we face are dealing with architecture, really having a solid enterprise architecture in place; the explosion of the Web, it continues to grow. Right now, is rated as one of top five Web sites in government, so it's meeting the needs of citizens through expanded growth efforts. Also, keeping up with so many emerging technologies and leveraging them into our business needs.

WT: Are your agency's needs different from those of other agencies?

West: Different in the sense that we deal more with dissemination of data vs. transaction processing that you may see at other agencies. We deal with getting information out. Our core business is alerting the public to weather, warnings and advisories, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding, and getting that information out as quickly as possible. So technology plays a very important role in the lead time, giving as much lead time to the citizens as possible so they can evacuate.

We get heavily involved in modeling data, dispersion of data, a lot of areas that deal with supercomputing as well. It does have a different twist in that we deal with a lot more scientific work here.

WT: What do you look for in companies with which you are thinking of doing business?

West: Past performance, delivering on time and delivering a quality product or service.

WT: A year from now, where do you see weather service's technology capabilities?

West: I'd like to see our bandwidth positioned where it's seamless to users and also where we're using some of the newer technologies, such as e-authentication, GIS and grid computing.

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