by William Hooke
More thoughts on this week’s Summer Community Meeting, from the AMS project, Living on the Real World
Robert White, former head of the Weather Bureau (back in the 1960’s), and the first NOAA Administrator, tells the following story. President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA in the same year, 1970. He set up EPA as an independent agency. He had intended to move NOAA out of the Department of Commerce (DoC), but late in the proceedings he had a falling out with Wally Hickel, the former governor of Alaska who was then Secretary of Interior. At the last minute, in the letter that set things in motion, Nixon inked out “Interior” by hand, and wrote in “Commerce.” Bob claims to have the actual letter.
Since then, as NOAA’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the years, some occasionally opine that NOAA, like EPA, should have been established as an independent agency. But the actual truth of the matter? Quite different. In policy, just as in real estate, what matters is location, location, location. And for NOAA’s issues, the policy landscape of the Department of Commerce is prime property.[*]
NOAA has missed many opportunities over the years to take fullest advantage of its DoC address, and, it must be said, vice versa. Commerce has failed to wield its powerful tool. The stage had been set long before 1970 – in fact, in 1940. That year the Weather Bureau was moved from the Department of Agriculture, its home for half a century, to the Department of Commerce, in specific recognition that weather influences all sectors of the economy, not just the production of food and fiber. But this open invitation for Commerce to wield weather services to have their full impact on national affairs has lain essentially dormant for two-thirds of a century. Successive administrations have left a legacy, but have realized only a fraction of the full possibilities. Now, however, both NOAA and DoC may be about to RSVP.
But more about that in a moment.
Let’s redirect our attention to the AMS Summer Community Meeting in State College. This week, all week, the participants here have been on a roller coaster ride. At times they’ve found themselves carried high by
by William Hooke