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 oceans, and the environment. They are critical to long-term weather prediction, including advance forecasts of a hurricane's path and intensity. Our nation's current operational polar-orbiting environmental 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 combine the two current systems into a single, state-of-the-art environment-monitoring satellite system. NPOESS is considered critical to the United States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting and global climate monitoring though the year 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have formed a tri-agency integrated program office to manage NPOESS. GAO was asked to determine the NPOESS program's current status and plans and to discuss considerations in moving the program forward.
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