From EOS, Vol. 93, No. 25, 19 June 2012
White House and Agencies Focus on Space Weather Concerns
“Space weather is a serious matter that can affect human economies around the world,” Tamara Dickinson, a senior policy analyst with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), told attendees at the 2012 Space Weather Enterprise Forum, held 5 June in Washington, D. C. With the 2013 solar maximum nearing, researchers and government agencies are focusing on how the greater solar activity could affect our increasingly technological society and what measures can be taken to help prevent or mitigate any threats to the electricity grid, GPS, and other potentially vulnerable technologies.
Dickenson said that there has been an increased awareness about space weather in the White House and that President Barack Obama recently has requested briefing memos on the topic. She highlighted several efforts the administration is taking related to space weather, including a forthcoming national Earth observation strategy, which could be released in July and will include an assessment of space weather. She explained that the strategy document will be part of the fiscal year 2014 presidential budget request and that it will be updated every 3 years.
Dickinson added that the administration also is acting on earlier federal interagency recommendations to ready the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission for launch in 2014 as a near-term risk reduction measure to provide space weather data; there is concern about the continued healthy operation of the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which has gone well beyond its expected mission life.
Earlier this year, Obama directed OSTP and the national security staff “to aggressively move forward with space weather mitigation efforts,” Dickinson said. Based on the president’s direction, she restructured OSTP’s Geomagnetic Interagency Working Group. “We are focusing on achievable, strategic implementation actions, at least initially focused on the [electricity] grid,” she said. Dickinson noted that she has included additional federal agencies in the working group. However, she also said that OSTP itself now has only one staff member working on space weather. With the departure of two OSTP staff in March, “it was determined that OSTP should consolidate all the space weather activities under one person,” she said.
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