Weather Modification & Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

The bill will develop a comprehensive and coordinated national weather modification policy through federal and state research and development programs. It will also establish a Weather Modification Advisory and Research Board within the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote and expand the practical knowledge of weather modification. Further, it recognizes the significance of state and federal collaboration in this endeavor.”  ~Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “Introduction of S. 2170, the Weather Modification Research and Technology Transfer Authorization Act,” Weather Modification Association. March 4, 2004.~

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EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY

WASHINGTON, D.C.   20502

December 13, 2005

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison

United States Senator

284 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC  20510

Dear Senator Hutchison:

This letter is in response to S. 517, the  “Weather Modification Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2005,”reported out by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on November 17, 2005 (Senate Report No. 109-202).  While the Administration recognizes the Committee’s interest in weather modification research and development, there is a host of issues — including liability, foreign policy, and national security concerns — that arose in the past and should be adequately considered before the U.S. Government undertakes the coordinated national research program this legislation would require.

The Administration respectfully requests that you defer further consideration of the bill pending the outcome of an inter-agency discussion of these issues that the Office of Science and

Technology Policy (OSTP) would coordinate – with the Department of Justice on legal issues, with the Department of State on foreign policy implications, with the Departments of Defense and State on national security implications, and with pertinent research agencies to consider the reasons the U.S. Government previously halted its work in this area.  At the conclusion of this review, the Administration would report back to you on the results of these discussions so you are fully apprised of all possible issues associated with authorizing a new Federal program on this topic.

Specifically, the Administration believes concerns in the following areas must be better understood:

Local Political & Legal Ramifications

  • Because small scale weather modification (e.g., cloud seeding) may promote rain in one area to the detriment of another, weather modification could result in inter-state (including Indian Tribes) litigation or private citizen litigation against the modification programs.
  • The legal and liability issues pertaining to weather modification, and the potential adverse consequences on life, property, and water resource availability resulting from weather modification activities, must be considered fully before the U.S. Government could take responsibility for this new research program.

International and Foreign Policy Implications

  • Small and large scale (e.g., hurricane) weather modification efforts could benefit the
  • United States to the detriment of other countries (such as Canada or Mexico).
  • Given global weather patterns, whether one country “owns” its weather so as to assert
  • intra-border control with extra-border consequences, must be considered under present international conventions.
  • The manner in which such a program could benefit or harm the present U.S. positions
  • on foreign policy matters, such as global warming/climate change, should also be considered.
  • National Security Implications
  • The U.S. Government’s previous weather modification programs were part of our
  • Cold War history; restarting them today could promote (possibly hostile) foreign responses.
  • In 1978, the United States became a party to an international treaty banning the use of weather modification for hostile purposes.  While modification for peaceful purposes is allowed, whether well-intentioned programs could be considered “hostile” and perceived to violate this ban should be considered.

Research Issues

  • The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s

(NOAA) primary atmospheric and meteorological research focus is on improving weather forecasting, which has proven to save lives and property.  NOAA abandoned weather modification activities some time ago in favor of other research areas that more directly relate to the agency’s core mission and responsibilities.

  • Redirecting funding to focus on weather modification can shift funds away from other important programs such as research to improve weather forecasting capabilities for severe weather events and research to better understand climate variability and change.

In addition to discussing these concerns on an interagency basis, and in recognition of your interest in this area, OSTP would be willing to charter a study to address the above issues.  This study would be conducted by the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), a federally chartered research and development center that provides objective, technical advice to OSTP.

The study would address the history and current status of weather modification research.  Such a study will help us understand the technical position of this field of science, the significance of the issues discussed above, and the field’s historical context.

The Administration requests that you not move forward with your legislative proposal until a better understanding can be developed of the full range of possible implications.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

John H. Marburger, III

Director

cc: The Honorable Ted Stevens

Co-Chair

Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye

Co-Chair

Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Official Summary

12/8/2005–Reported to Senate, amended. (There is 1 other summary)
Weather Modification Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2005 –

(Sec. 4)

Directs the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a Weather Modification Subcommittee to coordinate a national research program on weather modification. Requires the Subcommittee to include representatives from:
(1) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
(2) the National Science Foundation (NSF); and
(3) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Provides for a representative from NOAA and a representative from NSF to serve together as co-chairs of such Subcommittee.
Requires the Director to develop and submit a plan for coordinated federal activities under the program, which shall:
(1) for a ten-year period, establish the goals and priorities for federal research that most effectively advances scientific understanding of weather modification;
(2) describe specific activities required to achieve such goals and priorities, including funding of competitive research grants, training and support for scientists, and participation in international research efforts;
(3) identify and address, as appropriate, relevant programs and activities of the federal agencies and departments that would contribute to the program;
(4) consider and use, as appropriate, reports and studies conducted by federal agencies and departments, and other expert scientific bodies, including the National Research Council report on Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research;
(5) make recommendations for the coordination of program activities with weather modification activities of other national and international organizations;
(6) incorporate recommendations from the Weather Modification Research Advisory Board; and
(7) estimate federal funding for research activities to be conducted under the program. Specifies activities related to weather modification that may be included under the program, including:
(1) interdisciplinary research and coordination of research and activities to improve understanding of processes relating to weather modification, including cloud modeling, cloud seeding, improving forecast and decision-making technologies, related severe weather research, and potential adverse affects of weather modification;
(2) development, through partnerships among federal agencies, states, and academic institutions, of new technologies and approaches for weather modification; and
(3) scholarships and educational opportunities that encourage an interdisciplinary approach to weather modification. Requires the Director to prepare and submit to the President and Congress annual reports on the activities conducted pursuant to this Act respecting the Weather Modification Subcommittee, including:
(1) a summary of the achievements of federal weather modification research;
(2) an analysis of the progress made toward achieving the goals and objectives of the plan;
(3) a copy or summary of the plan and any changes made to it;
(4) a summary of agency budgets for weather modification activities;
(5) any recommendations regarding additional action or legislation that may be required to assist in achieving the purposes of this Act;
(6) a description of the relationship between research conducted on weather modification and research conducted pursuant to the Global Change Research Act of 1990, as well as research on weather forecasting and prediction; and
(7) a description of any potential adverse consequences on life, property, or water resource availability from weather modification efforts, and any suggested means of mitigating or reducing such consequences if such efforts are undertaken.

(Sec. 5)

Establishes in the Office of Science and Technology Policy the Weather Modification Research Advisory Board to:
(1) make recommendations to the Weather Modification Subcommittee on matters related to weather modification; and
(2) advise such Subcommittee on the research and development, studies, and investigations with respect to potential uses of technologies and observation systems for weather modification research and assessments and evaluations of the efficacy of weather modification, both purposeful, (including cloud-seeding operations) and inadvertent (including downwind effects and anthropogenic effects).

(Sec. 6)

Instructs U.S. departments and agencies and any other public or private agencies and institutions that receive research funds from the United States related to weather modification to give full support and cooperation to the Weather Modification Subcommittee.