Polar Satellites: Agencies Need to Address Potential Gaps in Weather and Climate Data Coverage

GAO-11-945T Published: Sep 23, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2011.
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Environmental satellites provide critical data used in weather forecasting and measuring variations in climate over time. In February 2010, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy disbanded the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)--a tri-agency satellite acquisition that had encountered continuing cost, schedule, and management problems--and instructed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to undertake separate acquisitions. Both agencies have begun planning their respective programs--the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS)--including creating program offices and transitioning contracts. GAO was asked to summarize the status of ongoing work assessing (1) NOAA's and DOD's plans for their separate acquisitions and (2) the key risks in transitioning from NPOESS to these new programs. In preparing this statement, GAO relied on the work supporting previous reports, attended monthly program management meetings, reviewed documentation on both programs, and interviewed agency officials.

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