Weekly Column

Did you know that the Air Force is in the weather business? In fact, some of the most advanced weather forecasting equipment in the world belongs to the U.S. Air Force, and it’s based right here in Nebraska. 

From their headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, the Air Force’s 557th Weather Wing provides the entire Department of Defense with real-time updates about weather across the globe. This information is crucial to our military’s success. Our armed forces operate all around the world, and the 557th’s world-class forecasts give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines an advantage over our adversaries when they go out into the field.

As the Air Force’s only weather wing, the 557th has an incredibly important job. That job has changed over time. They can trace their history back to World War I, when the Army established a meteorological service unit in the Army Signal Corps to support American soldiers fighting in Europe.

Back then, forecasting consisted of measuring the temperature, air pressure, and sky conditions to make an educated guess about what the weather might look like in the near future. Today, the scientists and technicians of the 557th Weather Wing use radar, satellites, and a state-of-the-art computing network to process nearly 3 terabytes of data each day. This includes two supercomputers, one of which they have affectionately nicknamed “Thor,” that are among the 150 most powerful in the world.

As important as this technology is, the 557th would be nothing without its people. Roughly 1,500 men and women of our Air Force are assigned to this wing across its two groups and 12 squadrons, each of which has a part to play in making the 557th the most effective unit of its kind in the world.

At least 124 of these airmen are currently deployed abroad, but most of the 557th’s personnel are headquartered at Offutt. Like the 155th Air Refueling Wing, a unit of the Nebraska Air National Guard that I profiled in a column a few weeks ago, the 557th occupies a unique space in our nation’s military, and I am proud that they make Nebraska their home.

All of this combines to make the 557th Weather Wing one of the most important units not just in the Air Force, but across the entire U.S. military. Every branch of our armed forces relies on them for accurate weather information in one way or another, as do all of the unified combatant commands and elements of the intelligence community. 

I am pleased to report that the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual legislation I helped draft that sets the policies and priorities of our military, authorizes tens of millions of dollars in funding for the 557th Weather Wing operations.

If we want to make sure our military remains the greatest fighting force on Earth, Congress has to support them through the legislation we pass. This year’s NDAA gives the talented men and women of the 557th the resources they need to continue their important work in assisting in planning for the safety and success of our nation’s military missions. I look forward to continuing to fight for them for years to come.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.