Weather Forecasting:

Important Issues on Automated Weather Processing System Need Resolution

IMTEC-93-12BR: Published: Jan 6, 1993. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 1993.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Weather Service's (NWS) acquisition of the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), focusing on: (1) how effectively the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) analyzed and defined its system requirements; (2) key risks associated with the acquisition; and (3) whether any risks warranted delay of the contract award.

GAO found that: (1) NOAA effectively involved users in analysis and definition of AWIPS requirements; (2) a diverse cross section of NWS users defined AWIPS baseline and functional requirements; (3) NOAA has continued to refine AWIPS functional and interface requirements and faces significant risks, since the roles and responsibilities of the contractor and government are not clear; (4) other risks include a lack of specific system portability requirements, security requirement definitions, and a configuration management plan; and (5) failure to resolve each risk before AWIPS software development begins could cause cost increases, schedule delays, and performance problems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Actions were completed on one of the six specific components of GAO's recommendation--a configuration management plan was developed. However, the other five components were still outstanding issues prior to the AWIPS program restructuring that occurred due to managerial and technical problems. A new AWIPS contract was signed in August 1995 to reflect this restructuring. GAO closed this recommendation because the restructuring changed the AWIPS program from the time that it was evaluated and this recommendation was made in late 1992.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the successful development of AWIPS and minimize the risk of cost and schedule growth, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the actions planned by the NOAA Systems Program Office adequately resolve the outstanding issues described in this report before the AWIPS design is approved and significant software development begins.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce


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