Challenges As Deadline Looms For Weather Service Consolidation

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A proposal to consolidate aviation weather service units is under consideration and a September report by the Government Accountability Office says that the National Weather Service (NWS) and the FAA have yet to properly address key challenges even though the interagency agreement will expire at the end of the month. The proposed restructuring considers changing the way aviation weather services are provided at en route centers, but the GAO states "it is not yet clear whether and how these changes will be implemented." In 2005, the FAA requested that the NWS consolidate sites and reduce personnel costs while providing 24/7 service. NWS' subsequent proposals were rejected by the FAA "because the costs were too high," according to the GAO, and the latest proposal would move weather service from roughly 21 locations, to two. When the GAO found that the latest proposal lacked performance measures starting with a baseline of the current system's performance, the FAA generated five measures and NWS proposed eight more. The GAO has found that the agencies have failed to establish a performance baseline for nine of those measures. The GAO maintains that without baseline measures, the NWS and the FAA may find themselves in a poor position to measure the success or failure of any changes. As always, the GAO has recommendations.

The GAO is now recommending that the Departments of Commerce and Transportation "document baseline performance for several measures, and take steps to address challenges." Before the agencies can move forward, says the GAO, they must "immediately identify the current level of performance," establish performance measures, define a common outcome, finalize requirements for aviation weather services at en route centers, ensure alignment with NextGen initiatives, and address implementation challenges. Read the full report here.