Press Release

House Science Committee to Examine Cost Overruns, Delays, and Mismanagement of Key Weather, Defense Satellite

By SpaceRef Editor
November 15, 2005
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House Science Committee to Examine Cost Overruns, Delays, and Mismanagement of Key Weather, Defense Satellite

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Undersecretary of the Air Force will appear before the House Science Committee tomorrow to explain to Congress the ongoing problems of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS).

NPOESS is NOAA’s marquee satellite program.  It will provide the agency vital weather and hurricane forecasting data and fulfill important functions for the Department of Defense (DOD).  The program, which is joint venture of NOAA, DOD, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has been significantly mismanaged, leading to severe cost overruns of between one and three billion dollars, and significant construction delays of between one and three years.  The witnesses tomorrow will explain to Congress how the program has gotten so far off track and how they plan to rectify the situation.

The Committee plans to examine these overarching questions:

  1. What is the current estimate of the cost and launch date for the first NPOESS satellite compared to the September 2003 baseline ($7.4 billion and November 2009) and when will an official new baseline be available?
  2. What program options are being considered in response to the increased cost and schedule delays? 
  3. It is our understanding that no options are being considered that increase spending in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 or FY 2007.  Why is that the case?  Will delaying action until FY 2008 increase the lifetime cost of the NPOESS program and increase the risk that the satellite will not be ready in time to perform its mission? 
  4. If the last satellite from the current NOAA polar series fails during launch or in orbit, then, given the schedule delays anticipated for NPOESS, there could be a 19- to 36-month gap in polar satellite coverage for NOAA.  If a coverage gap were to occur, what are the implications for NOAA and DOD weather forecasting capabilities? What are the Federal government’s contingency plans for a gap in polar satellite coverage?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Full Science Committee – Hearing
Ongoing Problems and Future Plans for NOAA Weather Satellites
10:00a.m – 12:00p.m.
2318 Rayburn House Office Building (WEBCAST)

Witness List:

  • Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. (Ret.), Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • Dr. Ronald M. Sega, Under Secretary for the Air Force;
  • Dr. Alexis Livanos, President, Northrop Grumman Space Technology; and
  • Mr. David Powner, Director of Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office.

For more information, please contact the Science Committee press office at 202-225-4275.

SpaceRef staff editor.