NOAA awash in homeland tech

Fiscal 2003 budget

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With its fiscal 2003 budget proposal, the Bush administration has added the information technology capabilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to its homeland security arsenal, NOAA officials said today.

Out of a total budget request of $3.3 billion, $26.4 million would go for programs such as security for the facilities that operate National Weather Service satellites and a backup system for the NWS weather and climate supercomputer, NOAA officials said in a press briefing.

"The products we produce inside NOAA have become critical parts of decisions made by Americans every day," said Conrad Lautenbacher Jr., undersecretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and the NOAA administrator. "If we are subject to an attack and can't keep functioning through it, than it will be bad for country."

Among the IT programs related to homeland security that received proposed budget increases are:

* Operations funding for the "hot backup" of NWS' telecommunications center: $3 million.

* Enhanced security at NOAA's satellite ground stations in Alaska and Virginia: $2.3 million.

* Maintenance and internal security services for existing systems that offer the risk of "single points of failure": $2.8 million.

* Backup operations for critical NWS satellites in the event of a catastrophic outage: $2.8 million.

* Efforts to expand NOAA's ocean charting capacity to provide for more accurate navigation data and aid the safe movement of goods through the nation's seaports: $9.9 million.

* New backup systems for the NWS supercomputer: $7.2 million.

The NWS supercomputer generates numerical weather models that are based on air and ground observations, such as temperature and wind. Forecasters use the models to help make forecasts and issue warnings about severe weather.

NOAA also has requested $79.9 million for a new polar environmental satellite program to be run jointly with the Defense Department and NASA, and $2 million to replace the upper air radiosonde network, NOAA's primary high-altitude atmospheric monitoring system. The latter system is "getting very old," Lautenbacher said. "It won't be functional in a few years if we don't replace it."

The entire NOAA budget request falls $45.4 million below the funding levels for the previous fiscal year.

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