I was fortunate enough to join Senator Barbara Mikulski, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and weather service leadership in College Park today for the grand opening of the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.
As part of the University of Maryland’s M-Square Research and Technology Park, this center will bring three NOAA offices and more than 800 meteorologists, scientists, data managers, and other NOAA employees together in a state-of-the-art facility that will allow these experts to provide Americans with short- and long-range weather, climate, and hydrological forecasts.
These kind of forecasts are incredibly important. Several years ago, I worked for Washington, DC’s Department of Transportation. In a job like that, an accurate forecast tells you more than whether or not you need an umbrella before you leave your house. It tells you whether or not more than 40,000 children can get to school, some of whom rely on that those schools not just for learning, but for food as well. It’s about understanding if it’s safe to send 1.5 million commuters out on the roads and public transit systems.
No matter where you work, whether it is in government or in business, good data is the foundation of good decision making. Understanding the weather and the full range of its potential impact is essential information to individuals who manage some of our most important services.
At GSA, our mission is to provide federal agencies the support they need to fulfill their responsibilities to the American people at the maximum possible value. This facility gives NOAA the resources they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. With sustainable features such as “green roofs,” bio-retention areas, recycled construction materials, highly energy efficient windows and motion based lighting systems, and a storm water cistern to collect water for irrigation, it provides value to both this agency and the taxpayers.
The facility also demonstrates the power of ‘zero wall’ collaborative workspace. I visited the center where meteorologists and other scientists work on weather prediction as well as storm tracking, and plume modeling. This interdisciplinary team has worked on projects such as modeling and tracking the radioactive plume from the Fukushima plant after the tragic tsunami in Japan. While I was there a number of the scientists expressed how helpful it was to have people from other parts of the organization close by and ready for instant collaboration. Reducing our physical footprint can actually enhance our ability to cooperate and achieve outstanding results.
This innovative project is a perfect example of the kind of environmental and fiscally sustainable practices that are essential to the realizing the mission of GSA in the 21st Century. Congratulations to everyone who helped make it a reality. This project would not have been possible without the dedicated work of some men and women here at GSA and I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize their contributions. I want to thank Jim Dunn, the project manager; Calvin Myint, the Director of the Triangle Service Center; Martha Gates; the former Director of the Triangle Service Center, who is now retired, but handled a large amount of the work that went into this project; Mark Stadsklev; the project contracting officer; and everyone else from GSA who worked so hard to make this project a reality.
This is a great day for GSA, NOAA, and the University of Maryland. To Dr. Lubchenco and everyone at NOAA, and to Dr. Loh and everyone at the University of Maryland, congratulations on this new facility. I know you’ll put it to good use.