Weather Service Modernization Questions

AIMD-95-106R: Published: Mar 10, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to questions concerning the National Weather Service's (NWS) modernization. GAO noted that: (1) the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) could accomplish its mission if known system problems are fixed, but it was never meant to fully replace human weather observers; (2) the costs to fix ASOS are not known, since they are either included in the current contract or are outside of the present ASOS specifications; (3) ASOS errors could pose risks for aviation efficiency and safety, weather forecasts, and climate research; (4) until testing is completed, the ability of ASOS sensors to perform in severe weather is not known; (5) the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) cost $179 million through February 1995 and will cost $346 million to complete; (6) $58 million in added AWIPS costs is due to poor program management; (7) poor technical expertise and interaction, the misassignment of certain software development responsibilities, and a poor systems development approach have led to AWIPS problems; (8) potential AWIPS problems include the lack of a systems design, shared development responsibility between the contractor and the government, and software development; (9) NWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration do not have a software development process in place, but they are planning to improve the process; and (10) AWIPS cost and schedule have increased by $58 million and 1 year, respectively, but estimates are imprecise, since system development is still evolving.

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