Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7) and Mo Brooks (R-AL-5) introduced the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act. This bipartisan legislation is aimed at expanding the scientific understanding and forecasting of space weather, the naturally occurring variations in the space environment between the sun and the Earth. The legislation is the House companion to S. 881, introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) which passed the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year.
“Colorado has some of the best minds, laboratories and research institutions on space weather in the country,” said Rep. Perlmutter. “That is why I’ve been interested in this issue and pursuing legislation to help the academic and commercial space weather sector best contribute and participate in our space weather enterprise.”
“The overarching goal is to better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to impacted industries and ensure our academic, international, and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting,” Perlmutter continued. “Space weather can cause great damage to our infrastructure and our economy, and we need to make sure we are all working together to have the best research and prediction capabilities possible. I want to thank my colleague Rep. Brooks for his help in crafting this legislation.”
“Space weather begins at the Sun,” said Rep. Brooks. “Its far-reaching and potentially dangerous effects significantly affect human Earth and space activities. Inasmuch as our space weather understanding is still in its infancy, the ‘Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow’, or the ‘PROSWIFT Act’, establishes a much-needed space weather observation and forecasting architecture to research the best ways to detect, forecast and mitigate the harmful effects of space weather.”
“Fortunately, numerous people and organizations are already working to better understand space weather,” Brooks continued. “Scientists and engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center are at the forefront of vital research, and the PROSWIFT Act will build on and supplement their research, thereby enhancing America’s space weather knowledge. I thank my colleague, Mr. Perlmutter, for his leadership on space weather and his partnership on this bill.”
Perlmutter first introduced H.R. 3086, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act in 2017 which passed out of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in 2018. In addition, the Senate companion bill (S. 141) passed the Senate in the 115th Congress.
The PROSWIFT Act would strengthen space weather research by directing federal agencies to develop new tools and technologies to improve forecasting and set benchmark standards to measure space weather disturbances and their potential impacts to Earth. The bill will require the first ever space weather user survey to understand the needs of users of space weather products and incorporate those needs into an Integrated Strategy across the federal government to address space weather research and observational needs.
The legislation also outlines clear roles and responsibilities for the federal agencies which study and predict space weather, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Additionally, the legislation enhances the relationships between federal agencies, academic researchers and the commercial space weather industry.
Space weather has the potential to impact our infrastructure and could significantly disrupt the economy. Lloyds of London estimates a worst-case scenario space weather event could cost up to $2.6 trillion and impact as many as 40 million people by causing outages at electric utilities, disrupting GPS and communication networks and forcing airlines to reroute air traffic.