A new name for the National Hurricane Center?
Administrators at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) are making moves to promote their "Corporate Identity" by renaming the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service, according to an article published yesterday in the Miami Herald. The new organizations would be called the "NOAA Hurricane Center" and the "NOAA Weather Service". The proposed changes are being vigorously opposed by new NHC director Bill Proenza, who said, "what's happening is scary."
The issue at hand is money. Everyone has heard of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the National Weather Service (NWS), but the public is not that familiar with their parent organization, NOAA--part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. By taking over the name of two of the government's most visible, well performing, and trusted organizations, NOAA wants to position themselves to take credit for the fantastic job these organizations do. The result, they hope, will be increased funding for NOAA in the future, thanks to increased name brand recognition. "If NOAA achieves a strong presence in the eyes of the people who use its varied services, the agency will be more successful in budget matters," said Anson Franklin, NOAA's director of communications.
The problem with this is that there are no guarantees that increased funding for NOAA will result in a bump in funding for NHC or NWS. For example, NOAA has an annual budget of over $4 billion, and NHC's budget is just $6.3 million. With NHC losing its identity, its funding may become diluted by NOAA, and will have to fight harder for dollars. Another problem is that the public, who like and trust the NWS and NWS brands, may see the change as an attempt by NOAA bureaucrats to take unwarranted credit for what these organizations do. In addition, it will cost plenty to change the names of these organizations, which may be viewed as a waste of taxpayers' money.
Proenza also complained that NOAA is spending between $1.5 million and $4 million on a "bogus" 200-year NOAA anniversary celebration (NOAA was founded in 1970, although some of its component organizations are 200 years old). I do believe that NOAA has a name recognition problem, and that it needs to spend some public relations money to get their name more recognized by the public. Public relations campaigns are essential for any organization to succeed in today's world. However, I think NOAA is going about their public relations campaign the wrong way. The amount being spent on the 200-year anniversary celebration is excessive, given NOAA's stinginess in funding important hurricane research. Furthermore, NOAA should leave the names of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service alone. Departments of NOAA should be named, recognized, and funded based on their individual missions and function, not based on those of their parent organization. NHC and NWS have worked hard to earn their name recognition, and it would be wrong for NOAA to change their names.
NOAA has made a web page available for the public to see the proposed changes to its web pages that would result from its reorganization. You can comment on the proposed changes until June 13.