National Weather Service in dispute over privatization of mobile app development

NWS employees unhappy with suspension of inhouse work on mobile apps

The National Weather Service is in a dispute with its own employees over whether the service has gone too far in promoting the privatization of weather-related applications using federal data.

NWS leadership put out a memo in December suspending staff development of mobile applications because the private sector development of such apps has been robust and many of the offerings have been available to the public at little or no charge, according to a Jan. 9 article by Andrew Freedman in the Washington Post.

However, Dan Sobien, director of the National Weather Service Employees Union, said that the agency should not be quick to give up development of mobile applications because distributing weather data to the public is one of its core missions. That mission eventually could be hampered if the public needs to sign into, and pay for, access to critical weather data through private mobile apps, the argument goes.

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Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Sat, Jan 21, 2012

Agreed. NWS should develop and promote its own mobile apps to the public...especially those who travel.

Tue, Jan 10, 2012

Information that the public needs related to weather should be free. And I for one prefer to get my weather and mountain pass reports from the weather service if I can't get what I need from the Washington DOT at

Tue, Jan 10, 2012 A. Private Citizen

There is far more to this issue than you have stated. Apparently as a result of political pressure, the NWS went so far as to require employees to seek approval for such development even when done as a private citizen. If the public had any idea of the abuse of their trust (and tax dollars) by the politicians and sycophant bureaucrats there would be a new ice age in Washington D.C.

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