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Highlights

The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the aid of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), plans to procure the next generation of geostationary operational environmental satellites, called the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R series (GOES-R). This 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) assess the status and plans for GOES-R, and (2) evaluate whether NOAA is adequately mitigating key technical and programmatic risks. To do so, GAO analyzed contractor and program data and interviewed officials from NOAA and NASA.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce To improve NOAA's ability to effectively manage the procurement of the GOES-R system, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to ensure that the GOES-R program office manages, mitigates, and reports on risks using a program-level risk list that is reconciled with and includes risks from its flight and operations project offices that could impact the overall program.
Closed - Implemented
The GOES-R program has developed and is maintaining a program-level risk list that includes risks from its flight and ground projects. Additionally, the GOES-R System Program Director reports on program-level risks and mitigation efforts during monthly program management reviews.
Department of Commerce To improve NOAA's ability to effectively manage the procurement of the GOES-R system, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to include the following risks on the programwide risk list, develop plans to mitigate them, and report to senior executives on progress in mitigating them: (1) unfilled or temporary GOES-R program leadership positions,(2) insufficient program insight on NASA contract performance, and (3) insufficient management reserve on the critical Advanced Baseline Imager instrument and at the GOES-R program level.
Closed - Implemented
NOAA has not added the risks we identified to its risk lists, but has taken steps to mitigate the risks. Specifically, NOAA has filled key positions on the GOES-R program, added earned value management analysts to increase the agency's ability to oversee contract performance, and has allocated sufficient management reserves.

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