GAO-10-799 September 2010 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites:
Improvements Needed in Continuity Planning and Involvement of Key Users

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What GAO Found

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made progress on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series acquisition, but key instruments have experienced challenges and important milestones have been delayed. 

Even though there may be a gap in backup coverage, NOAA has not established adequate continuity plans for its geostationary satellites. 

While NOAA has identified GOES data users and involved internal users in developing and prioritizing the GOES-R requirements, it has not adequately involved other federal users that rely on GOES data. 

What GAO Recommends
GAO is recommending that NOAA address weaknesses in its continuity plans and improve its processes for involving other federal agencies. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Secretary of Commerce agreed with GAO's recommendations and identified plans for implementing them.
Why GAO Did This Study
The Department of Commerce's NOAA, with the aid of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is to procure the next generation of geostationary operational environmental satellites, called the GOES-R series. The GOES-R series is to replace the current series of satellites, which will likely begin to reach the end of their useful lives in approximately 2015. This new series is considered critical to the United States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting through the year 2028.
Objectives
  • Determine the status of the GOES-R acquisition, including cost, schedule, and performance trends
  • Evaluate whether NOAA has established adequate contingency plans in the event of delays
  • Assess NOAA's efforts to identify GOES data users, prioritize their data needs, and communicate with them about the program's status