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Polar-orbiting environmental satellites provide data and imagery that are used by weather forecasters, climatologists, and the military to map and monitor changes in weather, climate, the ocean, and the environment. The current polar satellite program is a complex infrastructure that includes two satellite systems, supporting ground stations, and four central data processing centers. In the future, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) is to merge the two current satellite systems into a single state-of-the-art environment monitoring satellite system. This new $7 billion satellite system is considered critical to the United States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting and global climate monitoring through the year 2018. In its testimony GAO was asked, among other topics, to discuss risks to the success of the NPOESS deployment.

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