Weather Satellites:

Economies Available by Converging Government Meteorological Satellites

NSIAD-87-107: Published: Apr 23, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1987.

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GAO reviewed the United States' two separate, but similar, polar-orbiting meteorological satellite systems to determine if the two systems could be combined to eliminate duplicative practices and overlapping functions, and continue to provide necessary services to the systems' users.

GAO found that: (1) national policy supports the convergence of polar meteorological satellite systems; (2) convergence is technically and operationally feasible, since both systems collect similar types of data and have common features; and (3) the federal government could save several million dollars by combining the two systems of four satellites to one system of three satellites, eliminating areas of duplication, using multiyear procurement contracting, and purchasing parts in larger quantities. GAO noted that: (1) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Air Force independently took steps or planned actions that would further separate the satellite systems; and (2) the systems now have fewer interchangeable electronic components. GAO also found that alternative ways of combining the systems include: (1) integrating sensors; (2) redesigning the existing four-satellite system into a three-satellite system with a mix of sensors; and (3) creating a hybrid system consisting of three existing satellites. GAO concluded that the Department of Commerce office responsible for coordinating all federal meteorological programs, except meteorological satellites, could expand its operations to include these satellites and, thus, assist in the convergence process.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Commerce should jointly take the initiative to converge the Defense Meteorological Satellite and the Television Infrared Observation Satellite polar orbiting systems to the maximum extent possible. The Secretaries should also take actions to: (1) curtail or minimize the divergent trends associated with the two programs; (2) eliminate unnecessary duplication; and (3) ensure that ongoing sensor integration efforts are maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Policy issues on convergence were studied by a joint OMB, DOD, and Commerce working group. The Deputy Secretary of Defense expressed to OMB that total convergence was not attainable and that levels of convergence greater than presently exist would impact the civil mission in ways Commerce would have to assess. Neither DOD or Commerce intend to further pursue the topic of a convergence initiative.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Commerce should jointly take the initiative to converge the Defense Meteorological Satellite and the Television Infrared Observation Satellite polar orbiting systems to the maximum extent possible. The Secretaries should also take actions to: (1) curtail or minimize the divergent trends associated with the two programs; (2) eliminate unnecessary duplication; and (3) ensure that ongoing sensor integration efforts are maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Policy issues on convergence were studied by a joint OMB, DOD, and Commerce working group. The Deputy Secretary of Commerce subsequently advised OMB that the two separate satellite systems should be continued. Neither Commerce nor DOD intend to further pursue the topic of a convergence initiative.

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