Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Hearing - Status Report on the NPOESS Weather Satellite Program
Mr. David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues
Government Accountability Office
Program Executive Officer for Environmental Monitoring
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
NASA-NOAA-DOD WEATHER SATELLITE PROGRAM BACK ON TRACK DUE TO GOP CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2007 –The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today held a hearing to review the status of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is a joint civilian/military weather satellite program being developed in conjunction between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NPOESS has faced significant cost-overruns and major delays since its introduction in 1994, finally leading up to a statutorily-required DOD “Nunn-McCurdy” review and subsequent restructuring of the program in June 2006.
“Under Republican leadership in the last Congress, this Committee held three high-profile hearings about NPOESS. In looking over the testimony for today’s hearing, it appears to me that close oversight has paid off,” said Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC). “For the most part, the program is on track under the new plan announced in June 2006.”
Inglis continued, “But, simply because things appear under control right now, I do not want to imply that the Congress, or the Administration for that matter, can back off from our close oversight of NPOESS. In fact, I believe just the opposite… NPOESS today is a $12.5 billion program. That is a lot of taxpayer money. We expect that investment to provide a series of weather satellites that are launched on time and provide data to inform everything from decisions about our military troop operations to forecasting the path of hurricanes.”
The NPOESS satellites are designed to orbit around the Earth’s poles and provide global coverage of weather and climate conditions. NPOESS satellites are being built to carry instruments to measure a number of meteorological features important to developing weather forecasts and for predicting severe weather, such as hurricanes.
Under Republican control, the Science Committee began closely examining the program in July 2003 with a hearing and initiation of the first Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on NPOESS. Since that time, the Committee has commissioned GAO to follow NPOESS on an ongoing basis. In the 109th Congress the Science Committee held three Full Committee hearings on NPOESS.
The Administration is also making NPOESS a priority. At today’s hearing, Dr. John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said, “Earth observations are important for characterizing the impacts of climate change to natural and human systems, and for many other applications such as improved weather forecasts, predicting and responding to natural disasters, water resource management, characterizing air quality and assessing ecosystem health.”
He then added, “While current challenges to maintaining and improving U.S. Earth observing systems exist, as noted in the recently released National Research Council (NRC) Decadal Survey on Earth science, I want to emphasize that this Administration is committed to supporting these capabilities.”