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Subject: NOAA Undermining International Standards?
Friends - As you may be aware, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in a bid to expand its role in national public warning, is representing its new "HazCollect" all-hazard warning program as using the OASIS Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard. Regrettably, what NOAA is proposing to roll out nationwide in the next few months is a crippled and incomplete version of the CAP data format. If NOAA was a warning system provider like any other, that might be a minor and ultimately self-correcting glitch. But what NOAA is about to unwrap is nothing less than a national backbone network for public warnings of all kinds. The sheer size and scope of the NOAA effort means there'll be strong pressure on other warning technology providers to conform to the NOAA-variant specification. That will leave firms and agencies in the U.S. and abroad that already have implemented CAP per the international specification at a severe disadvantage. Despite numerous requests over the past six months, and spurning offers of technical assistance and even of funds from local governments to bring HazCollect into full CAP compliance, the NOAA officials in charge of HazCollect have stubbornly declined to have their contractor, the Battelle Memorial Foundation, make the relatively minor--by their own admission--adjustments required for full CAP compliance. Regrettably, we can no longer ignore the possibility that NOAA is trying deliberately to drive a wedge between implementers and the international standards process. One reason might be that the restrictions NOAA is trying to impose on CAP serve to mask serious and long-standing shortcomings in existing warning systems, including ones operated by NOAA. But we don't need to speculate about motives to see that we are at a crossroads for the adoption of open standards by the U.S. Government. If federal agencies start to rewrite science-based consensus standards by dint of raw administrative muscle, that will leave the technology market at the mercy of unrestrained bureaucracy. It will inflict huge costs on industry and the public and be an enormous setback for international humanitarian relief and the global war on terror. It's too bad that quiet diplomacy was unable to resolve this before it became public. However, with the national deployment of HazCollect's "initial operating capacity" just weeks away, it's time for the standards community to take a stand for standards compliance and transparency. Therefore, speaking as the original architect and editor of the Common Alerting Protocol, I'm calling on the OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee and its members to demand that HazCollect not be declared operational until its CAP implementation is complete and fully compliant with the published specifications. Our integrity is being tested now. Either we stand up for open, non- proprietary standards or we stand by as our work becomes a stalking- horse for narrow institutional interests. I'm confident that the agencies, organizations and individuals who've invested so much hard work in standards development over the last few years won't let that work be distorted or dismissed. - Art