Weather Forecasting:

Cost Growth and Delays in Billion-Dollar Weather Service Modernization

IMTEC-92-12FS: Published: Dec 17, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Weather Service's (NWS) modernization and restructuring program for four major automated systems, including cost growth and schedule delays.

GAO found that: (1) the Next Generation Weather Radar's (NEXRAD) project cost estimate increased over $1.1 billion, from the original 1980 estimate of $340 million to approximately $1.5 billion; (2) delays in the NEXRAD schedule will extend its final implementation from fiscal year (FY) 1989 to 1996; (3) the Next Generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-Next) cost estimate increased more than $1.3 billion, to approximately $2 billion; (4) the first scheduled launch for the GOES-Next satellite was delayed by more than 4 years, to February 1994, and the second satellite has been planned for launch about 1 year later; (5) the GOES-Next system's cost growth and schedule slippage were due to the complexity of the satellite design, inadequate program management, and poor contractor performance; (6) it will cost $120 million to deploy 250 Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS), a $48-million increase over the 1986 estimate of $72 million; (7) deployment of ASOS has been extended by approximately 5 years, to FY 1995; (8) the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) will cost $465 million to deploy, $115 million more than was estimated in FY 1986; (9) delays in the AWIPS schedule will extend final deployment to FY 1998, about 4 years beyond the original schedule; and (10) under the NWS restructuring plan, 249 field offices will be consolidated to 115 forecast offices, and 13 river centers will be collocated with those offices.

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