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Highlights

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to procure the next generation of geostationary operational environmental satellites, called the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R series (GOES-R). This new series is considered critical to the United States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting through the year 2028. GAO was asked to (1) determine the status of and plans for the GOES-R series procurement, and (2) identify and evaluate the actions that the program management team is taking to ensure that past problems experienced in procuring other satellite programs are not repeated.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration To improve NOAA's ability to effectively manage the procurement of the GOES-R system, the Secretary of Commerce should direct its NOAA Program Management Council once the scope of the program has been finalized to establish a process for objectively evaluating and reconciling the government and independent life cycle cost estimates.
Closed - Implemented
NOAA finalized the scope of the GOES-R program in October 2007 and directed the program office and an independent cost estimating firm to complete life-cycle cost estimates. In agreement with our recommendation, NOAA's Chief Financial Officer established a rigorous process for objectively evaluating these cost estimates and reconciled these estimates accordingly.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration To improve NOAA's ability to effectively manage the procurement of the GOES-R system, the Secretary of Commerce should direct its NOAA Program Management Council to perform a comprehensive review of the Advanced Baseline Imager, using system engineering experts, to determine the level of technical maturity achieved on the instrument, to assess whether the contractor has implemented sound management and process engineering, and to assert that the technology is sufficiently mature before moving the instrument into production.
Closed - Implemented
NOAA agreed with our recommendation and established an independent review team to assess the Advanced Baseline Imager before moving it into production. In February 2007, the independent review team validated that the instrument's design was robust and mature enough to enter the production phase. Further, the independent review team concluded that the program plans, project management, staff capability, and current risk level were sufficient to enter the production phase.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration To improve NOAA's ability to effectively manage the procurement of the GOES-R system, the Secretary of Commerce should direct its NOAA Program Management Council to seek assistance from an independent review team to determine the appropriate level of resources needed at the program office to adequately track and oversee the contractor's earned value management. Among other things, the program office should be able to perform a comprehensive integrated baseline review after system development contract award, provide surveillance of contractor earned value management systems, and perform project scheduling analyses and cost estimates.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2007, the GOES-R program convened an independent review team to review the earned value management staffing plans. The review team made a series of recommendations and the program office implemented them. The program office currently has four earned value specialists and plans to hire two additional specialists in fiscal year 2009.

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