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Policy Regarding Public and Private Sector Roles


Policy Documents and References


Information Services Review Committee

The NWS Information Services Review Committee is a group which serves to provide cross-NOAA administrative review of issues arising from external parties which pertain to NWS information services. This review process does the following:
  1. Ensures consistent application of the NOAA Policy on Partnerships in the Provision of Environmental Information and the NWS implementation of this policy.
  2. Ensures fair application of a "due consideration" standard to external parties.
  3. Provides recourse to external parties on NWS decisions.
  4. Ensures that complex government-wide legal and policy requirements are met.

    *This file is in Adobe Acrobat® format. The free reader/printer for these files is available from http://www.adobe.com.


Six NWS Guiding Principles for Assessing Public/Private Sector Roles

From the NWS' perspective, the government has a particular obligation always to act in a fair and evenhanded manner to all of its constituencies. Our relationship with the private sector is an important one. NWS can't meet America's needs without the private sector and the private sector can't meet America's needs without us. As the value of information increases, the need to clearly define government's role becomes more urgent. In order to maximize fairness and openness, the NWS Strategic Planning and Policy Office developed the six principles outlined below in 2001. In the following years, these principles have been embodied in NOAA and NWS policies which now take precedence over these informal principles. However, the six principles can still be helpful in interpreting these policies or addressing issues not specifically addressed in formal policy:

1. Describe the Mission Connection
In sustaining a particular product or service or developing a new product/service, NWS should describe the connection of that product or service to its mission. It is an NWS goal to be able to provide clear documentation that describes this mission connection in terms of answers to basic What, Why, How, Who, When, Where questions. Having a description such as this will ensure that the product concept is well thought out and will ultimately help determine if a particular new product is appropriate for NWS to provide to its customers.

2. Life and Property First
Public protection is a fundamental government function and "protection of life and property" is key to the NWS mission. We will put life and property protection first in the allocation of resources and the development and dissemination of NWS products and services. Any time lives are at stake in the immediate time frame, NWS will send out the information first by any effective means, leaving for later any concerns about whether a product or service is appropriate.

3. Be Predictable
Be predictable by providing all users, including those in the private sector, adequate notice and opportunity for input into decisions regarding the development and dissemination of products and services. For example, every experimental product should go through a public comment period before being made operational. This serves to maximize the overall utility of the product, provides an opportunity to engage both critics and supporters, and creates a NO SURPRISE Weather Service.

4. The Taxpayers Own the Data
Remember always that the taxpayers own the data, and that open and unrestricted dissemination of publicly funded information is good policy and is the law. The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 support the proposition that taxpayer-funded government information is a national resource, and economic and other benefits to society are maximized when this information is made available in a timely and equitable manner to all.

5. Equity, Equity, Equity
Always strive for equity in dealings between various classes of the user community, and do not show favoritism to particular classes of partners, particularly those in the academic and commercial sectors. Do not provide a service to a segment of the user community that cannot be provided to all users. For example, providing a marine forecast product tailored to the needs of a particular shipping company would be inappropriate.

6. Maintain and Explain the Routine
When faced with a special request for services, make sure the customer fully understands the products which NWS "routinely" (event and clock-driven) provides. These products, when understood, may fully meet the customer's needs. Refer requests for specifically tailored products/services to the private sector. A case example of this principle is seen in the provision of weather services supporting the Winter 2002 Olympics. Close cooperation between NWS and private sector assured consistent tailored and timely weather information was available to meet public safety and Olympic Committee needs. A clear boundary existed between planned public and private sector support–-specific forecasts for venues were provided by the private sector, while routine services were provided by NWS (with special attention to transportation infrastructure and public safety concerns).


Mailbox Icon We can be reached for questions or comments by E-mail at Edward.Johnson@noaa.gov or by mail/phone/fax as follows:

NWS Strategic Planning and Policy
ATTN: W/SP
1325 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3283
Phone: (301) 427-9061



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US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Strategic Planning and Policy Office
1325 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Page last modified: February 18, 2009
Page Author: Strategic Planning and Policy Office
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