I am pleased to release the "National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan", a report prepared by the Working Group for the National Space Weather Program (WG/NSWP) of the Committee for Space Environment Forecasting (CSEF) of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research (OFCM).
A series of recent workshops and meetings attended by members representing the military, commercial, and research communities has revealed the pressing need for improved space environment understanding and forecasting over many time scales. A National Space Weather Program has been formulated to achieve, within the next 10 years, an active, synergistic, interagency system to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space environment observations, specifications, and forecasts. This Strategic Plan outlines a strategy to guide the planning and implementation of the National Space Weather Program. The document describes the National Space Weather Program, its priorities and goals, the national customer base, and the strategic elements essential to an integrated, goal-oriented capability dedicated to serving national needs.
I want to take this opportunity to express appreciation to Dr. Richard Behnke of the National Science Foundation and Colonel Thomas Tascione of the United States Air Force, co-chairmen of the working group which prepared the National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan, and to the additional contributors for their efforts in preparing and submitting material for the Plan.
Julian M. Wright, Jr. Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research
"Space weather" refers to conditions on the sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can endanger human life or health. Adverse conditions in the space environment can cause disruption of satellite operations, communications, navigation, and electric power distribution grids, leading to a variety of socioeconomic losses.
The Nation's reliance on technological systems is growing exponentially, and many of these systems are susceptible to failure or unreliable performance because of extreme space weather conditions. Technology has reduced our risk to many kinds of natural disasters, but has actually increased the risk of some systems to space weather. Many risks could be mitigated or avoided if reliable space weather forecasts were available and if reliable, quantitative models were available to system designers. We now have the scientific knowledge and the technical skills to move forward to dramatically improve space weather understanding, forecasts, and services to meet customer needs.
The overarching goal of the National Space Weather Program is to achieve, within the next 10 years, an active, synergistic, interagency system to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space environment observations, specifications, and forecasts. It will build on existing capabilities and establish an aggressive, coordinated process to set national priorities, focus agency efforts, and leverage resources. The Program includes contributions from the user community, operational forecasters, researchers, modelers, and experts in instruments, communications, and data processing and analysis. It is a partnership between academia, industry, and government.
Currently, space environmental support services are provided through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center and the US Air Force's 50th Weather Squadron. Bulletins, forecasts, alerts, warnings, and data are routinely disseminated to a broad range of customers. Forecast and specification services are supported by four strategic elements--research, observations, models, and education--and by a process that transfers and integrates knowledge into the operational forecast system. Improving forecasting and specification services provides the focus for the other contributing elements.
The vehicle to implement and manage the Program is the National Space Weather Program Council within the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research. The Council consists of representatives from Federal agencies involved in space weather activities; they are the official spokespersons on matters such as program scope, requirements, and resource commitments. The Council will establish policy, develop an implementation plan, focus and coordinate interagency efforts and resources, and approve interagency agreements developed within the scope of the Program. The Council will provide oversight and policy guidance to ensure common needs are met and the interests of each agency are addressed.
An X-ray image of the sun, obtained by the Yohkoh satellite as part of a joint Japanese -U.S. space mission.
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