Time running out on atomic-clock station in Fort Collins

FORT COLLINS — The National Institute for Standards & Technology based in Boulder may close its time-signal radio station in Fort Collins that broadcasts time and frequency information from its atomic clock in Boulder as part of agency-wide  proposed budget cuts.

President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for NIST proposes to cut the agency’s budget from its fiscal year 2017 enacted level of $954 million to $629 million, a 34 percent decrease.

The cuts, as proposed by NIST, would include trimming its workforce nationwide by 325 jobs, leaving 1,932 people with jobs. How many of those job cuts would be in the region is unclear. The proposed cuts also include closing station WWV in Fort Collins and time-signal station WWVH in Kaua’i, Hawaii, which would trim $6.3 million from the NIST budget.

In its proposed budget, NIST said 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. NIST said that it will eliminate efforts that have been replaced by newer technologies. In the case of the atomic-clock signals transmitted from radio stations, they now can be accessed through GPS satellites that contain multiple atomic clocks that contribute precise time data to the GPS signals.

Station WWV would be celebrating its 100th anniversary Oct. 1, 2019. The station was created in 1919 in Washington, D.C., and was moved to Fort Collins in 1963.