NIST FY2019 budget includes request to shutdown WWV and WWVH

WWV Time Code Generator – photo taken at WWV in 2014

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who have pointed out the NIST 2019 Presidential Budget request which has now been posted online and includes a desired reduction of:

“$6.3 million supporting fundamental measurement dissemination, including the shutdown of NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii

WWV’s transmitter building in Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

I’ve always considered WWV and WWVH to be the heartbeat of the shortwaves here in North America–a constant, timely companion and brilliant gauge of HF propagation. Indeed, on a personal note, WWV was actually the first station I ever remember hearing on shortwave.

I assumed both stations would be some of the last to go silent on the shortwaves.

No doubt, I find this budget request very disappointing. Let’s hope, somehow, this does not come to fruition. We will certainly post any/all updates here on the SWLing Post. Follow the tag: NIST

Click here to read about my visit to WWV Fort Collins in 2014.

60 thoughts on “NIST FY2019 budget includes request to shutdown WWV and WWVH

  1. J,D, Weisenburger

    WWV and WWVH provide a time standard unequaled elsewhere in the world. Many of us regular citizens have, over the years, invested in automatic clocks that use the time signals of these stations. Our Cellular telephone system syncs to these signals making digital communications possible. The GPS system also relies on a base time reference which is WWV or WWVH. To take away these signals would be paramount to throwing out the standards for weights and measures.

    Although the internet has supplanted, International Broadcasters on the Shortwave bands, the internet cannot replace standard time reference mostly because of IP latency issues.

    Keep the time signals lest chaos will reign again.

    Reply
    1. Tom Adams

      Those automatic “atomic” clocks do use radio signals. Cell systems and GPS require much more precise clocking and do not use WWV, though WWV and Tier 1 clocking use by cell system both trace sources from the same NIST standard. GPS is independent and can itself serve as a high precision distributed clock.

      Reply
    2. Dick Pache

      GPS timing comes from the Navy, There are 2 Naval Master clocks used to control GPS timing, one in Md and the other one at Schriever AFB Colorado, Satellite time transfer is used to compare each clock.

      Reply
  2. Luke Perry

    Don’t a lot of electronics and watches use those signals to sync the precise time? Seems to be a very bad idea to save $6 million a year which is peanuts in the overall budget.

    Reply
  3. Toby Cobb

    Luke Perry, they use WWVB at 60khz. That being said, many people do use WWV and WWVH for their time and frequency services. For many, this is the closest that the taxpayer can get to a traceable standard for use in time domain measurements

    To terminate these valuable public services would not be in the public interest.

    Reply
  4. Mark, MW1MDH

    This is stupid..given how small an amount of money they’re talking, all those clocks and other systems will stop working – But they will need to be converted to GPS/NTP in order to keep working, and that’ll probably cost way more than a paltry $6.3 million!

    Reply
  5. Mack

    I don’t know who put this proposal in, but WWV and WWVH provide more than just time services essential to so many people and products. These include:

    – Providing a precision frequency reference by which radio receivers and transmitters may calibrate their equipment
    – Marine storm warnings critical especially to smaller craft outside coastal VHF range
    – Solar activity for radio propagation conditions, which is critical to emergency operations using HF

    Of all the things to get rid of, this is not one of them. Someone needs to start a petition to the WH to continue support of WWV and WWVH

    Reply
    1. John Callari

      Well, it’s the Presidential budget request, so yes, it is the President’s fault that the request is being made.

      Reply
  6. TomL

    It is Conspiracy Theory that says GPS depends on WWV and all chaos will ensue (reminds me of Y2K madness when the world was going to end; not so much except that Taiwanese parking meters went offline).

    How GPS gets its time calcs: https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/travel/gps3.htm
    Using Differential GPS, I think 8 nanoseconds accuracy is good enough for consumers, hobbyists, and industrial users.

    For computers you can use tick.usno.navy.mil or tock.usno.navy.mil
    Or lookup using NIST’s own time page: https://time.gov

    I would miss WWV/WWVH but it is not the end of the world….

    Reply
  7. Stan Edwards

    Years ago I used WWV for time and frequency calibration. Most computers now use the Internet for setting its time. As stated earlier, WWVB is used for those “atomic” clock settings and it doesn’t seem to be included in the budget cuts. I now use GPS for setting the clock on my computer. The one thing I would miss from ceasing operations on WWV would be the solar predictions used for radio propagation forecasting when I don’t have Internet access when traveling. I don’t do much radio frequency calibration work anymore, but I’m not sure how that would be accomplished without WWV.

    Reply
  8. Dale Putnam

    This is arguably the absolute best, most efficient and cost effective spending of Federal Tax monies that we have. The folks that work at WWV are shining examples of selfless pride in their work and their country.
    To end that program is shameful, especially when what is to be paid for with the “saved” money is shown for what it really is. Shameful. Another instance of no one listening to the folks paying the bills.

    Reply
  9. Dale Putnam - WC7S

    This is arguably the absolute best, most efficient and cost effective spending of Federal Tax monies that we have. The folks that work at WWV are shining examples of selfless pride in their work and their country.
    To end that program is shameful, especially when what is to be paid for with the “saved” money is shown for what it really is. Shameful. Another instance of no one listening to the folks paying the bills.

    Reply
  10. Jake Brodsky

    Many things depend on WWVB that most do not even know is in service. For example, if you’re in an underground vault (as with a utility, instead of running a cable to a GPS receiver above, you could purchase a WWVB receiver and it would just work.

    As far as WWV is concerned, I consider it a cheap convenience. It’s a lot nicer than a GPS receiver with a slaved oscillator. Furthermore, GPS is often spoofed and jammed, so having another time source on the air like that is very useful.

    For what it costs to keep this thing going, I think it would be a mistake to kill the program.

    Reply
  11. Nigel Gunn

    J,D, Weisenburger…
    “a time standard unequaled elsewhere in the world”
    Please tell me where your system is superior to the British, German, Russian, Canadian et al systems?

    Reply
  12. Christopher Ness

    Article 1, section 8 of the U. S. Constitution:
    “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;”

    Yet another Constitutional duty of the U.S. Government being cast off so they can afford to do the unconstitutional duties they have taken on.

    Reply
  13. Hue Miller

    The comment that cellphone systems rely on the WWVB LF signal, is that accurate ? I worked in telco central
    offices, where all the timing came from GPS. The modern GPS is very small and inexpensive compared to earlier systems. As for the LF signal timing clocks and so on, it’s near bulletproof, but not totally, depending on local shielding and local noise.

    Reply
  14. Tom Reitzel

    Complete craziness. WWV is one of a FEW viable governmental functions. I’m wondering when automatic pay decreases will be implemented by the US Congress so WWV can continue. 😉 Nearly unbelievable.

    Reply
  15. Bob LaRose W6ACU

    I think that the hidden agenda is actually to try to stop time from going forward and find a way to turn it back a couple of decades!

    Reply
  16. Scott Todd

    I know it’s not technically the most accurate way to calibrate a frequency counter, but I have one that I zero-beat with WWV on 10MHz. Would hate like crazy to see that go away.

    Reply
  17. John Adkins

    Somehow the railroads got along pretty well before WWV began broadcasting time signals in 1922. The general public has never used the broadcast directly, though I remember the thrill of hearing the metronome the first time when I was about 10. I’m unconvinced that broadcast of a time standard is a required governmental function. Regarding GPS function, for example, companies using or selling GPS products could give support. Those of us with “atomic clocks”–I have 3–will probably just have to go back to correcting the time once weekly, as we used to do.
    On the other hand, it seems that with the amount of waste in the budget, the measly amount in the appropriation seems affordable. Perhaps this could be the first step in some governmental fiscal sanity. Well–probably it won’t.

    Reply
    1. SteveV

      The general public has been using the WWVB signals directly for more than 10 years, perhaps 20 for me – I’m trying to temember how long I’ve had my 1st Lacross Technology watch, which uses WWVB. On addition to the watches, there are untold numbers of wall clocks that “sync” to WWVB, as well as remote weather monitoring stations. So, contrary to some commenters here, there is and has been direct public benefit from NIST’s time and frequency services.

      Reply
  18. J Case

    I have to assume most of the comments posted here are based on the fact that fact the posters have never been involved in the budgeting process.
    This is not Trump or Congress shutting down WWV & WWVH this is NIST shutting it down.
    NIST was asked to submit a budget telling Congress how much money they need and where they are going to spend it. If you go to https://www.nist.gov/director/fy-2019-presidential-budget-request-summary/fundamental-measurement-quantum-science-and
    It shows you the line items NIST says it no longer needs and Radio Time Service does not seem to be needed anymore as you can get it from GPS or over the Internet and a $10 OCXO will provide a more accurate frequency reference than WWV or WWVH can.

    Reply
    1. Nigel Holmes

      Dear J Case,

      I have been involved in budget management. Budgets covering every mode of broadcast delivery you can imagine (satellite, MF, VHF, online, HF, transcription, partner re-broadcasts).

      Let’s look at a certain HF site of 610 acres (privately owned) in a rural environment: 7 x 100 kW HF tx, 13 big arrays & associated masts (to 60 m agl). Substantial auxilliary equipment (inc. Rb stds!!), air con., fire protection, multiple MVA trannies & 22 kV switchyard. 6×100 kW run 24/7
      Staff costs $1.2m
      Electricity $1.5m
      O&M $1.1m (Operation & Maintenance)
      Commercial margin $0.9m
      Total $4.7m p.a.

      I’d like to see the breakdown for NISTs costs associated with WWV/WWVH. US$6.3m seems high, but perhaps the sites are maintenance intensive due to aging infrastructure & environmental impacts.

      Reply
  19. Clint Gilliland

    I grew up with WWV. My father worked for the National Bureau of Standards from the 1930s. He was involved with ionospheric research, shortwave propagation, and vertical iono sounders. When I was in high school he ran a field station in Puerto Rico. He usually had a speaker on WWV on all the time. Earlier, when I was very small, I remember when WWV only had a voice announcement on the hour (and half hour?),
    I don’t trust the internet time as latency, mentioned above, is unknown. There are three WWVB clocks in the house.
    I recorded the last leap second adjustment.

    Reply
  20. Ian Baines, P Eng.

    If we were to have another Carrington event as in 1859, satellite communication would disappear, as would most short wave. Time coordination for utilities, network communication, navigation would fall back on fiber optic cables. If you are not on a cable node, you would need WWV to establish accurate time. Dominoes failure of communications would imperil most modern systems. Without WWV, good luck getting systems running again. It will be a hard lesson

    Reply
  21. Pingback: NIST FY 2019 Budget Would Eliminate WWV and WWVH | QRZ Now – Amateur Radio News

    1. SteveV

      You know, tovarich, if you’re going to troll the list here, you need to change your name to something less Russian. It’s a fact that untold numbers of timepieces use WWVB to synchronize their oscillators with reality. GPS doesn’t work on wristwatches – especially the sealed, solar-powered types, because the power budget just doesn’t work – GPS is an energy hog compared to a once-per-24 hours reception of the WWVB beacon at 60 kHz. And, to the other writer, no, $10 tcxos don’t solve the problem – they drift, as every oscillator does.

      Reply
  22. Pingback: via the ARRL: NIST FY 2019 Budget Would Eliminate WWV and WWVH – This Week in Amateur Radio

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  24. DL4NO

    I understand your nostalgic feelings. But lets face the facts:

    * A shortwave transmission cannot be more exact than a few ms due to ionospheric fluctuations. If you need really exact time, you need to use any of the four navigational sattelite systems like GPS (USA), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (EU) or the Chinese system I do not know the name. That should be redundancy enough.

    * Small, autonomous devices like wrist watches normally rely on longwave signals – 60 kHz in the US, 77,5 kHz here in Germany. Longwave can be received within buildings, even in most cellars. Remember how long many people are outside where their devices could receive shortwave signals.

    * Propagation tests on shortwave can be done much better and cheaply using the the International Beacon Network, Reverse Beacon Network or WSPR – to name only a few of the Ham Radio systems.

    * In the majority of cases you can use a time server on the Internet.

    Conclusion: Those shortwave time signals are less important than medium-sized shortwave broadcast stations that send information into countries without a free press and censored Internt access like China, North Korea and many others.

    Reply
  25. Dana Whitlow

    If what I’ve been reading from time to time is not an exaggeration, a “Carrington event” has the potential to irreversibly incapacitate existing satellites.

    So we should think twice about depending on GPS (etc) to provide backup services.

    Reply
  26. CapnJb

    WWV should not be eliminated… Basic radio is far more reliable than high tech solutions such as Satellite/GPS/Internet. Ships at sea use high tech (GPS/OMEGA/DECCA/LORAN) navigation systems, some of which have been shutdown in favor of GPS. However, the back up low tech navigation systems require accurate time to navigate using celestial navigation. The only source of accurate time when all else fails is WWV and the ships chronometers. One uh oh… costs far more than $6.3 million. Not a wise proposal…

    Reply
  27. Pingback: NIST FY 2019 Budget would eliminate WWV and WWVH…. – Summerside Amateur Radio Club

  28. Nick Gurr

    I think most of you dislike change. I understand this, but unlike most of us old guys my VCR no longer blinks 12 all day. Hams accept change.

    Reply
  29. Floyd Fox

    This burns me up as much money as the U.S. government gives away to foreign countries and as much as they spend to rebuild countries they’ve blown up! I zero beat WWV on CW = Morse Code to calibrate my transmitter so it is dead on the frequency with the industry standard. Amateur (ham) radio operators use WWV frequently for this purpose, especially when building a homemade transmitter or transceiver and the U.S. government needs to find the funding to keep it going. They never have any problem finding the funding they need to pay for things their respective political parties want to be funded!

    Reply
  30. Pingback: NIST FY 2019 Budget would eliminate WWV and WWVH | Coastal Ham Radio

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  32. WA6RIK

    In my view, I believe the intention to shut down WWV and WWVH is ill advised. Even the US military has decided to maintain a HF communications capability. Our space based communication assets are WAY too vulnerable to depend on exclusively so we need a terrestrial based ‘Plan B’ to back them up.

    Reply
  33. Nigel Holmes

    Random Observations
    * it’s always prudent to have a back-up.
    * US$6.3 mill would buy you a military toilet, but only the basic titanium tub model recycled from a Warthog.
    * do not underestimate the probability of a Carrington event, we missed one in June 2012 by nine days of solar rotation (read Koppel, Lights Out & replace cyber attack with Carrington event)
    * satellites are susceptible to a range of space weather effects (deep dielectric charging, enhanced orbital retardation) and can be easily shot down (the Big 3 demonstrated this years back, China most recently in 2007).
    * GNSS are pretty tough creatures as they operate in/around the Van Allen Belts at 19-24,000 km asl, but still have major issues e.g. SVN23 http://www.gps.gov/cgsic/meetings/2016/curry.pdf
    * all mobile cell bases have 2ndary references (which is why Rb stds are so cheap)

    HF ST&F tx can be more accurate than you might think. You can make frequency determinations down to 1 hertz in 10 GHz from WWV/WWVH by using the 1 kHz tone as a reference.
    See Burhans, Radio-Electronics 1983 September pp61-62 “Frequency Calibration Using WWV”

    Reply
  34. Nigel Holmes

    I meant to say
    * it’s always prudent to have a back-up. Or three. No plan A ever survived WTSHTF. Your Plan B will run home to its mother and not speak to you for 3 weeks. You need Plan C.

    Reply
  35. William L. Fuqua

    A couple of years ago I designed and built a special receiver to monitor all the WWV stations from 2.5 MHz to 20 MHz to observe ionospheric Doppler shift and propagation. It was easy since they are harmonically related. I got some great data during the eclipse this past year. You could observe the “S” curve in the Doppler shift and the Bow wave was also observed on the higher frequencies as fast ripples in the Doppler shift.
    Sure, a bunch of hams could set up beacons with GPS disciplined oscillators, but there are some rules would have to change to allow that.
    I was working on a receiving system for educational purposes to monitor the space radar fence signals so that we could observe the international space station and other space craft. But as I got started they shut it down.
    As far as frequency and time, GPS still relies on NIST as the standard as they continually produce more and more accurate standards. It looks like they may cut over 12 million having to do with environmental measurements and study to please the White House, I guess.
    It was not that long ago that their researchers produced a new state of matter, that was only theorized for many decades, Bose Einstein Condensate.
    Isolated and poor populations in third world countries, particularly in Central and South America use WWV to synchronize their clocks. HF frequencies are particularly good at penetrating jungle growth and shortwave receivers are very inexpensive, some new only a few dollars.
    This WH is so short sighted.

    Reply
  36. Richard Cochran

    Some people here seem to be under the impression that WWVB will continue, allowing all those consumer radio controlled clocks to continue keeping time automatically synchronized to the standard.

    But the actual text from the NIST FY2019 budget proposal says:

    NIST will discontinue the dissemination of the U.S. time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Ft. Collins, CO. 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.

    Source: http://www.osec.doc.gov/bmi/budget/FY19CBJ/NIST_and_NTIS_FY2019_President's_Budget_for_508_comp.pdf

    It doesn’t mention any call signs, but it doesn’t exclude any, either. It does say it will shut down the broadcasts from Ft. Collins, and that those broadcasts are used to synchronize consumer clocks and wristwatches. To me, those words sure sound like WWVB is in jeopardy, along with WWV and WWVH.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Agreed, Richard. I can’t imagine them keeping WWVB yet shutting down WWV. The wording, as I read it, sounded like the entire site would be shut down.

      Reply

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