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GAO discussed the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) $1.9-billion fleet modernization plan. GAO noted that: (1) previous studies have recommended that NOAA contract with private-sector vessel services to meet mission requirements and augment its core fleet capability; (2) vessel contracting is a cost-effective alternative to relying on and maintaining the NOAA fleet; (3) of the $63 million NOAA received for its fleet modernization program between 1992 to 1993, it obligated only $3 million for private-sector contracting; (4) NOAA needs to continue to examine the cost-effectiveness of using non-NOAA vessels; and (5) although NOAA plans to spend $2 million for private-sector contracting, it needs to allow flexibility in contract performance and obtain the cost and operational data it needs to determine whether private vessel contracting can meet mission requirements.

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