The new administrative structure, the Interagency Council for Advancing Meteorological Services (ICAMS), considers the planet as a whole, taking an “Earth system” approach that links the atmosphere, oceans, hydrosphere, terrestrial realm, cryosphere, and biosphere. With that full system approach, it can encompass weather, climate, hydrological, ocean, and related environmental services, with those services treated very broadly to include all activities that bring value to society. While we are all very used to agencies like the National Weather Service providing for the protection of life and property, this broader approach calls on the coordinated government agencies to also provide for personal and public health, quality of life, sustainability of the natural world, and economic and national security.
A key element of ICAMS is that it is co-chaired by the Administrator of NOAA and the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Both of these individuals are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and as such, represent officials at the highest levels of government. The OSTP Director position, which is often referred to as the “President’s Science Advisor,” is now a Cabinet-level position. The creation of ICAMS clearly benefitted from the nearly unique situation present in the past administration in which both individuals holding these positions were meteorologists, but the structure put in place was designed to work well even if that was not the case in future years.
Those of you wishing to dig into the details on how ICAMS will work, and also learn more about the history of the coordination of meteorological services across Federal agencies, can do so in the recent BAMS article [link: https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/bams/103/2/BAMS-D-21-0031.1.xml] by Drs. Kelvin K. Droegemeier and Neil A. Jacobs, who were the OSTP Director and NOAA Administrator responsible for the creation of ICAMS. Here, we will highlight only a few key elements of the plan and why this actually is a reason to be excited about a new bureaucracy.
As noted in the article by Droegemeier and Jacobs, the following principles are guiding ICAMS:
The meteorological enterprise is a national asset for ensuring personal and community safety, economic success, national security, and education;
individuals, and their creativity and dedication, are the greatest asset of the U.S. meteorological enterprise;
effective cross-agency coordination and external engagement are critical to success;
success for individuals and organizations is achieved via success of the enterprise as a whole;
efficiency is foundational to the stewardship of taxpayer dollars;
research, operations, and applications are mutually beneficial, mutually reinforcing, and equally important for realizing ICAMS goals;
open debate and a diversity of opinions promote excellence and teamwork; and
excellence results in quality and promotes public trust.
These principles reach beyond the confines of the individual government agencies that carry out meteorological services, and draw under their umbrella the entire weather, water, and climate enterprise. There is a clear recognition that collaboration between the government, academic, and private sectors is critical for success, and that none of them truly succeed unless all of them do. This collaborative mindset leads to an impressive set of goals for ICAMS:
Coordinate, help prioritize, and execute activities for U.S. global leadership in meteorological services;
streamline/consolidate activities, eliminate unnecessary duplication, and create greater efficiencies;
improve participation of agency leaders in strategic planning and program execution;
enhance communication and coordination, and promote sharing, within agencies and across the interagency;
facilitate the expansion and strengthening of partnerships with non-government sectors;
improve prioritization and promotion of high-impact and innovative initiatives;
enhance research and operational interactions and feedback loops to accelerate advancement;
enhance to all stakeholders messaging about the American meteorological enterprise; and
develop, recruit and sustain a professional and diverse workforce engaged in meteorological science and services.
Droegemeier and Jacobs note that “ICAMS also has the following ‘stretch’ goal that places its work in an international context: The United States will lead the world in meteorological services via an Earth system approach, providing societal benefits with information spanning local weather to global climate.”
To work toward achieving these goals, ICAMS is emphasizing the need to draw those in academia and the private sector into key activities that improve the delivery of services by the weather, water, and climate enterprise, with special attention on activities that take research into operations and on using operational experience to guide new research. Educational institutions also need to participate to ensure that the next generation of researchers and practitioners have the skillsets needed to be successful and to continue momentum toward the goals noted above.
It is likely that very few in the general public will ever know that ICAMS exists, and it will never have the sort of visibility and name recognition of federal agencies like the National Weather Service. But this new coordinating body will almost certainly lead to the weather, water, and climate enterprise providing better services to the public spanning the spectrum from local weather through the global climate.
This article has been adapted specifically for the AMS Weather Band from the longer article “Restructuring of U.S. Federal Coordination to Advance Meteorological Services” [link:
https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/bams/103/2/BAMS-D-21-0031.1.xml] by Kelvin K. Droegemeier and Neil A. Jacobs. Any errors and omissions may be attributed to AMS staff. Copyright remains with the AMS.