ARRL members and Amateur Radio clubs are expressing increased concern over the inclusion of WWV and WWVH on a list of proposed cuts in the White House’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. The proposed cuts also would include the Atomic Clock signal from WWVB used to synchronize specially equipped clocks and watches. Online petitions soliciting signatures include one established by Tom Kelly II, W7NSS, of Portland, Oregon, who would like to see funding for the stations maintained. At this point, the budget item is only a proposal, not a final decision. That would be up to the Congress to decide.
ARRL is among those worried over the possible loss of WWV, WWVH, and WWVB and is suggesting that members of the Amateur Radio community who value the stations for their precise time and frequency signals and other information sign Kelly’s petition and/or contact their members of Congress promptly, explaining how the stations are important to them, beyond government and military use.
Kelly’s petition, which may be signed by US residents, notes that WWV is among the oldest radio stations in the US, having been established in 1920. “The station has transmitted the official US time for nearly 100 years, and is an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” his petition says. “Additionally, these stations transmit marine storm warnings from the National Weather Service, GPS satellite health reports, and specific information concerning current solar activity and radio propagation conditions. These broadcasts are an essential resource to the worldwide communications industry.”
NIST’s full Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress calls for the agency to “discontinue the dissemination of the US time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Fort Collins, Colorado.” The agency noted, “These radio stations transmit signals that are used to synchronize consumer electronic products like wall clocks, clock radios, and wristwatches, and may be used in other applications like appliances, cameras, and irrigation controllers.” The specific cut, which would come from the NIST Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science, and Measurement Dissemination budget, would amount to $6.3 million.
In its budget request, NIST said that it plans to consolidate and focus work on its efforts in quantum science while maintaining essential core capabilities in measurement science research and measurement dissemination, as well as eliminate “efforts that have been replaced by newer technologies, measurement science research that lies outside NIST’s core mission space, and programs that can no longer be supported due to facility deterioration.”
WWV and WWVH broadcast time and frequency information 24/7, including time announcements, standard time intervals, standard frequencies, UT1 time corrections, a BCD time code, geophysical alerts, and marine storm warnings. Transmissions are broadcast from separate transmitters on 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz. An experimental 25 MHz signal is also currently on the air. WWVB transmits standard Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) signals on 60 kHz to appropriately equipped timekeeping devices.
NIST Public Relations Director Gail Porter told Tom Witherspoon, K4SWL — editor of The SWLing Post, which has been tracking developments — that NIST “is proud of the time and frequency services we provide through our radio stations, and understands that these services are important to many people.”
NIST Director Walter Copan has supported the overall budget request. “This budget request ensures that NIST can continue to work at the frontiers of measurement science by preserving investment in core metrology research,” Copan said. “Through its constitutionally mandated role, NIST performs work that only the government can do, and produces enormous return on US taxpayers’ investment. Translating measurements into technically sound standards across all industries enables effective international trade and US competitiveness.”
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