Glenn Tallia, B’84


Sky-high, sea-deep briefs

Think a government job is boring? Glenn Tallia, B’84, says think again. Over his 25 years as chief counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, his work has spanned air, sea, and space, ranging from safety regulations for NOAA deep-sea research divers to climate assessments to developing a traffic management system for satellites.

“You have the opportunity to do some really great things in government that you could never do in the private sector,” he says.

Tallia has direct legal oversight over the three divisions. He handles intellectual property and technology transfer for the research coming out of the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. For the National Weather Service and its 4,000 employees, Tallia’s legal team handles everything from safety protocols for hurricane flight teams to lawsuits over weather balloons gone astray and forecasts that missed their mark.

The National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS) “is one of the most important government agencies that people don’t know about,” Tallia says. He negotiated international agreements on the collaborative operation of NOAA’s geostationary and polar operational environmental satellites, which provide the underlying data for all weather forecasts. He is particularly proud of pioneering an open-data policy for sharing all NOAA data with the public. “Smart people will use the data to build businesses and create jobs,” he says.

NESDIS also controls space weather satellites that monitor and warn for solar flares and other potential hazards. He’s currently working with the National Space Council in the White House to develop a satellite traffic management system, which will alert operators of the increasing number of satellites in orbit about space junk and potential collisions.

“Every time I’ve had the privilege to go to the White House, I can’t believe I’m actually there for my work,” he says. “I’m always blown away by it.”