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Acquisition Faces Delays; Decisions Needed on Whether and How to Ensure 
Climate Continuity' which was released on June 19, 2008. 

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Testimony: 

Before the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on 
Energy and Environment: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST: 

Thursday, June 19, 2008: 

Environmental Satellites: 

Polar-orbiting Satellite Acquisition Faces Delays; Decisions Needed on 
Whether and How to Ensure Climate Continuity: 

Statement of David A. Powner, Director Information Technology 
Management Issues: 

GAO-08-899T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-08-899T, a testimony before the House Committee on 
Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System 
(NPOESS) is a tri-agency acquisition—managed by the Department of 
Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 
Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration (NASA)—which has experienced escalating costs, schedule 
delays, and technical difficulties. These factors led to a June 2006 
decision to restructure the program thereby decreasing its complexity, 
increasing its estimated cost to $12.5 billion, and delaying the first 
two satellites by 3 to 5 years. 

GAO was asked to summarize a report being released today that evaluates 
progress in restructuring the acquisition, assesses the status of key 
program components and risks, and assesses the agencies’ plans for 
obtaining the data originally planned to be collected by NPOESS 
sensors, but eliminated by the restructuring. 

What GAO Found: 

The NPOESS program office has completed most of the major activities 
associated with restructuring the acquisition, but key activities 
remain to be completed. In the past year, the program redefined the 
program’s deliverables, costs, and schedules, and renegotiated the 
NPOESS contract. However, agency executives have not yet finalized 
selected acquisition documents. Without executive approval, the program 
lacks the underlying commitment needed to effectively manage a tri-
agency program. In addition, given that DOD has stated it would not 
release fiscal year 2009 funds to the NPOESS program if key acquisition 
documents are not completed by August 2008, delays in completing these 
documents could affect the program’s funding and schedule. 

In the past year, the NPOESS program has made progress in completing 
development and testing activities associated with the spacecraft, 
sensors, and ground systems. However, key milestones have been delayed 
and multiple risks remain. Specifically, poor workmanship and testing 
delays caused an 8-month slip in the delivery of a complex imaging 
sensor called the Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite. This late 
delivery caused a corresponding 8-month delay in the expected launch 
date of the NPOESS Preparatory Project demonstration satellite, moving 
it from late September 2009 to early June 2010. Moving forward, risks 
remain in completing the testing of key sensors and integrating them on 
the spacecraft, resolving interagency disagreements about the 
appropriate level of system security, and revising outdated operations 
and support cost estimates—which program officials say could increase 
the lifecycle cost by about $1 billion. The program office is aware of 
these risks and is working to mitigate them, but these issues could 
affect the program’s overall schedule and cost. 

When the NPOESS restructuring agreement removed four climate and space 
environment sensors from the program and degraded four others, it led 
NASA, NOAA, and DOD to reassess their priorities and options for 
obtaining climate and space environment data. Since the June 2006 
restructuring decision, the three agencies have taken preliminary steps 
to restore the capabilities of selected climate and space weather 
sensors that were removed from the NPOESS program by prioritizing the 
sensors, assessing options for restoring them, and making decisions to 
mitigate near-term data continuity needs by restoring two sensors to 
the demonstration satellite and one sensor to the first NPOESS 
satellite. However, the agencies have not yet developed plans on 
whether and how to replace sensors on a long-term basis as no plans 
have been made for sensors or satellites after the first satellite of 
the program. Until such a plan is developed, the agencies may lose 
their windows of opportunity for selecting cost-effective options or 
they may resort to an ad hoc approach to restoring these sensors. 
Almost 2 years have passed since key sensors were removed from the 
NPOESS program; further delays in establishing a plan could result in 
gaps in the continuity of climate and space data. 

What GAO Recommends: 

In its report, GAO recommends that Commerce, DOD, and NASA coordinate 
to develop plans on whether and how to restore climate and space 
weather sensors removed from the NPOESS program. GAO also reemphasizes 
that the appropriate executives finalize and approve key acquisition 
documents. Agency officials agreed with both recommendations. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's hearing to 
discuss our work on the $12.5 billion dollar National Polar-orbiting 
Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program. NPOESS is 
expected to be a state-of-the-art, environment-monitoring satellite 
system that will replace two existing polar-orbiting environmental 
satellite systems. Polar-orbiting satellites provide data and imagery 
that are used by weather forecasters, climatologists, and the military 
to map and monitor changes in weather, climate, the oceans, and the 
environment. The NPOESS program is considered critical to the United 
States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather 
forecasting (including severe weather events such as hurricanes) and 
global climate monitoring through the year 2026. 

Three agencies share responsibility for the NPOESS program: the 
Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD)/United 
States Air Force, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
(NASA). To manage the NPOESS program, these agencies established a tri- 
agency integrated program office. In recent years, the program has 
experienced escalating costs, schedule delays, and technical 
difficulties, which led to a June 2006 decision to restructure it. This 
decision decreased the complexity of the program by reducing the number 
of satellites and sensors, increased the estimated cost of the program 
to $12.5 billion, and delayed the launches of the first two satellites 
by 3 and 5 years, respectively. 

As requested, this statement summarizes our report being released today 
that (1) evaluates the NPOESS program office's progress in 
restructuring the acquisition, (2) assesses the status of key program 
components and risks, (3) and assesses NASA's, NOAA's, and DOD's plans 
for obtaining the environmental data originally planned to be collected 
by NPOESS sensors, but then eliminated by the restructuring.[Footnote 
1] 

In preparing this testimony, we relied on our work supporting the 
accompanying report. That report contains a detailed overview of our 
scope and methodology. In addition, we updated factual information on 
sensors and due dates as warranted. All the work on which this 
testimony is based was performed in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

The NPOESS program office has completed most of the major activities 
associated with restructuring the acquisition, but key activities 
remain to be completed. In the past year, the program redefined the 
program's deliverables, costs, and schedules, and renegotiated the 
NPOESS contract. However, agency executives have not yet finalized 
selected acquisition documents, including the tri-agency memorandum of 
agreement and the acquisition program baseline. In April 2007, we 
reported that key acquisition documents were already over six months 
late and recommended that agency officials complete them 
immediately.[Footnote 2] Agency officials subsequently extended the due 
dates of the documents. Moreover, although DOD has had a role in 
delaying their completion, the Department has stated it would not 
release fiscal year 2009 funds to the NPOESS program if key acquisition 
documents are not completed by August 2008. Without executive approval 
of the memorandum of agreement and other key documents, the program 
lacks the underlying commitment needed to effectively manage a tri- 
agency program. In addition, given DOD's recent instructions, any 
further delays in completing these documents could affect the program's 
funding and schedule. 

In the past year, the NPOESS program has made progress in completing 
development and testing activities associated with the spacecraft, 
sensors, and ground systems. However, key milestones have been delayed 
and multiple risks remain. Specifically, poor workmanship and testing 
delays caused an 8-month slip in the delivery of a complex imaging 
sensor called the Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite. This late 
delivery caused a corresponding 8-month delay in the expected launch 
date of the NPOESS Preparatory Project demonstration satellite, moving 
it from late September 2009 to early June 2010. Any delay in this 
launch date shortens the time available for identifying lessons learned 
from the demonstration satellite while it is in orbit and incorporating 
these lessons in the development of the first NPOESS satellite. Such 
delays could also lead to gaps in weather and climate data continuity 
if existing satellites begin to degrade or fail. Moving forward, risks 
remain in completing the testing of key sensors and integrating them on 
the spacecraft, resolving interagency disagreements about the 
appropriate level of system security, and revising outdated operations 
and support cost estimates--which program officials say could increase 
the lifecycle cost by about $1 billion. The program office is aware of 
these risks and is working to mitigate them, but these issues could 
affect the program's overall schedule and cost. 

When the NPOESS restructuring agreement removed four climate and space 
environment sensors from the program and degraded four others, it led 
NASA, NOAA, and DOD to reassess their priorities and options for 
obtaining climate and space environment data. Since the June 2006 
restructuring decision, the three agencies have taken preliminary steps 
to restore the capabilities of selected climate and space weather 
sensors that were removed from the NPOESS program by prioritizing the 
sensors, assessing options for restoring them, and making decisions to 
mitigate near-term data continuity needs by restoring two sensors to 
the demonstration satellite and one sensor to the first NPOESS 
satellite. However, the agencies have not yet developed plans on 
whether and how to ensure climate and space weather data on a long-term 
basis as no plans have been made for sensors or satellites after the 
first satellite of the program. Until such a plan is developed, the 
agencies may lose their windows of opportunity for selecting cost- 
effective options or they may resort to an ad hoc approach to restoring 
these sensors. Almost 2 years have passed since key sensors were 
removed from the NPOESS program; further delays in establishing a plan 
could result in gaps in the continuity of climate and space data. 

In our report, we made recommendations to all three agencies to 
establish plans on whether and how to restore the climate and space 
sensors removed from the NPOESS program by June 2009, in cases where 
the sensors are warranted and justified. In addition, we also 
reemphasized a recommendation made in our prior report[Footnote 3] that 
the appropriate NASA, NOAA, and DOD executives immediately finalize key 
acquisition documents. All three agencies concurred with these 
recommendations. 

Background: 

Since the 1960s, the United States has operated two separate 
operational polar-orbiting meteorological satellite systems: the Polar-
orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) series-- managed by 
NOAA--and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)--managed 
by the Air Force. These satellites obtain environmental data that are 
processed to provide graphical weather images and specialized weather 
products--including both terrestrial and space weather. These satellite 
data are also the predominant input to numerical weather prediction 
models, which are a primary tool for forecasting weather 3 or more days 
in advance--including forecasting the path and intensity of hurricanes. 
The weather products and models are used to predict the potential 
impact of severe weather so that communities and emergency managers can 
help prevent and mitigate their effects. Polar satellites also provide 
data used to monitor environmental phenomena, such as ozone depletion 
and drought conditions, as well as data sets that are used by 
researchers for a variety of studies such as climate monitoring. 

NPOESS Overview: 

With the expectation that combining the POES and DMSP programs would 
reduce duplication and result in sizable cost savings, a May 1994 
Presidential Decision Directive required NOAA and DOD to converge the 
two satellite programs into a single satellite program capable of 
satisfying both civilian and military requirements.[Footnote 4] The 
converged program, NPOESS, is considered critical to the United States' 
ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather 
forecasting and global climate monitoring through the year 2026. To 
manage this program, DOD, NOAA, and NASA formed the tri-agency 
Integrated Program Office, located within NOAA. 

Within the program office, each agency has the lead on certain 
activities: NOAA has overall program management responsibility for the 
converged system and for satellite operations; DOD has the lead on the 
acquisition; and NASA has primary responsibility for facilitating the 
development and incorporation of new technologies into the converged 
system. NOAA and DOD share the costs of funding NPOESS, while NASA 
funds specific technology projects and studies. The NPOESS program 
office is overseen by an Executive Committee, which is made up of the 
Administrators of NOAA and NASA and the Under Secretary of the Air 
Force. 

NPOESS is a major system acquisition that was originally estimated to 
cost about $6.5 billion over the 24-year life of the program from its 
inception in 1995 through 2018. The program is to provide satellite 
development, satellite launch and operation, and ground-based satellite 
data processing. These deliverables are grouped into four main 
categories: (1) the space segment, which includes the satellites and 
sensors; (2) the integrated data processing segment, which is the 
system for transforming raw data into environmental data records (EDR) 
and is to be located at four data processing centers; (3) the command, 
control, and communications segment, which includes the equipment and 
services needed to support satellite operations; and (4) the launch 
segment, which includes launch vehicle services. 

When the NPOESS engineering, manufacturing, and development contract 
was awarded in August 2002, the cost estimate was adjusted to $7 
billion. Acquisition plans called for the procurement and launch of six 
satellites over the life of the program, as well as the integration of 
13 instruments--consisting of 10 environmental sensors and 3 
subsystems. Together, the sensors were to receive and transmit data on 
atmospheric, cloud cover, environmental, climatic, oceanographic, and 
solar-geophysical observations. The subsystems were to support non- 
environmental search and rescue efforts, sensor survivability, and 
environmental data collection activities. The program office considered 
4 of the sensors to be critical because they provide data for key 
weather products; these sensors are in bold in table 1, which describes 
each of the expected NPOESS instruments. 

Table 1: Expected NPOESS Instruments, as of August 31, 2004 (critical 
sensors are in bold): 

Instrument: Advanced technology microwave sounder; 
Description: Measures microwave energy released and scattered by the 
atmosphere and is to be used with infrared sounding data from the cross-
track infrared sounder to produce daily global atmospheric temperature, 
humidity, and pressure profiles. 

Instrument: Aerosol polarimetry sensor; 
Description: Retrieves specific measurements of clouds and aerosols 
(liquid droplets or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere, such 
as sea spray, smog, and smoke). 

Instrument: Conical-scanned microwave imager/sounder; 
Description: Collects microwave images and data needed to measure rain 
rate, ocean surface wind speed and direction, amount of water in the 
clouds, and soil moisture, as well as temperature and humidity at 
different atmospheric levels. 

Instrument: Cross-track infrared sounder; 
Description: Collects measurements of the earth's radiation to 
determine the vertical distribution of temperature, moisture, and 
pressure in the atmosphere. 

Instrument: Data collection system; 
Description: Collects environmental data from platforms around the 
world and delivers them to users worldwide. 

Instrument: Earth radiation budget sensor; 
Description: Measures solar short-wave radiation and long-wave 
radiation released by the earth back into space on a worldwide scale to 
enhance long-term climate studies. 

Instrument: Ozone mapper/profiler suite; 
Description: Collects data needed to measure the amount and 
distribution of ozone in the earth's atmosphere. Consists of two 
components (limb and nadir), which can be provided separately. 

Instrument: Radar altimeter; 
Description: Measures variances in sea surface height/topography and 
ocean surface roughness, which are used to determine sea surface 
height, significant wave height, and ocean surface wind speed and to 
provide critical inputs to ocean forecasting and climate prediction 
models. 

Instrument: Search and rescue satellite aided tracking system; 
Description: Detects and locates aviators, mariners, and land-based 
users in distress. 

Instrument: Space environmental sensor suite; 
Description: Collects data to identify, reduce, and predict the effects 
of space weather on technological systems, including satellites and 
radio links. 

Instrument: Survivability sensor; 
Description: Monitors for attacks on the satellite and notifies other 
instruments in case of an attack. 

Instrument: Total solar irradiance sensor; 
Description: Monitors and captures total and spectral solar irradiance 
data. 

Instrument: Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite (VIIRS); 
Description: Collects images and radiometric data used to provide 
information on the earth's clouds, atmosphere, ocean, and land 
surfaces. 

Source: GAO analysis of NPOESS program office data. 

[End of table] 

In addition, a demonstration satellite, called the NPOESS Preparatory 
Project (NPP), was planned to be launched several years before the 
first NPOESS satellite in order to reduce the risk associated with 
launching new sensor technologies and to ensure continuity of climate 
data with NASA's Earth Observing System satellites. NPP was to host 
three of the four critical NPOESS sensors, as well as one other 
noncritical sensor and to provide the program office and the processing 
centers an early opportunity to work with the sensors, ground control, 
and data processing systems.[Footnote 5] 

When the NPOESS development contract was awarded, the schedule for 
launching the satellites was driven by a requirement that the 
satellites be available to back up the final POES and DMSP satellites 
should anything go wrong during the planned launches of these 
satellites. Early program milestones included (1) launching NPP by May 
2006, (2) having the first NPOESS satellite available to back up the 
final POES satellite launch in March 2008, and (3) having the second 
NPOESS satellite available to back up the final DMSP satellite launch 
in October 2009. If the NPOESS satellites were not needed to back up 
the final predecessor satellites, their anticipated launch dates would 
have been April 2009 and June 2011, respectively. 

NPOESS Experienced Cost Increases, Schedule Delays, and Technical 
Problems That Led to Decision to Restructure the NPOESS Program: 

Over several years, we reported that NPOESS had experienced continued 
cost increases, schedule delays, and serious technical 
problems.[Footnote 6] By November 2005, we estimated that the cost of 
the program had grown from $7 billion to over $10 billion. In addition, 
the program was experiencing major technical problems with the VIIRS 
sensor and expected to delay the launch date of the first satellite by 
almost 2 years. These issues ultimately required difficult decisions to 
be made about the program's direction and capabilities. The Nunn- 
McCurdy law requires DOD to take specific actions when a major defense 
acquisition program cost growth exceeds certain thresholds.[Footnote 7] 
The law requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress when a 
major defense acquisition is expected to overrun its current baseline 
by 15 percent or more and to certify the current program to Congress 
when it is expected to overrun its baseline by 25 percent or 
more.[Footnote 8] In November 2005, NPOESS exceeded the 25 percent 
threshold, and DOD was required to certify the program. Certifying a 
program entails providing a determination that (1) the program is 
essential to national security, (2) there are no alternatives to the 
program that will provide equal or greater military capability at less 
cost, (3) the new estimates of the program's cost are reasonable, and 
(4) the management structure for the program is adequate to manage and 
control costs. DOD established tri-agency teams--made up of DOD, NOAA, 
and NASA experts--to work on each of the four elements of the 
certification process. 

In June 2006, DOD (with the agreement of both of its partner agencies) 
certified a restructured NPOESS program, estimated to cost $12.5 
billion through 2026.[Footnote 9] This decision approved a cost 
increase of $4 billion over the prior approved baseline cost and 
delayed the launch of NPP and the first 2 satellites by roughly 3 to 5 
years. The new program also entailed reducing the number of satellites 
to be produced and launched from 6 to 4, and reducing the number of 
instruments on the satellites from 13 to 9--consisting of 7 
environmental sensors and 2 subsystems. It also entailed using NPOESS 
satellites in the early morning and afternoon orbits and relying on 
European satellites for midmorning orbit data.[Footnote 10] Table 2 
summarizes the major program changes made under the Nunn-McCurdy 
certification decision. 

Table 2: Summary of Changes to the NPOESS Program, as of June 2006: 

Key area: Life cycle range; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 1995-2020; 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 1995-2026. 

Key area: Estimated life cycle cost; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: $8.4 billion; 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: $12.5 billion. 

Key area: Launch schedule; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: NPP by October 2006; 
First NPOESS by November 2009; 
Second NPOESS by June 2011; 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: NPP by January 2010[A]; 
First NPOESS by January 2013; 
Second NPOESS by January 2016. 

Key area: Management structure; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: System Program Director 
reports to a tri-agency steering committee and a tri-agency Executive 
Committee; 
Independent program reviews noted insufficient system engineering and 
cost analysis staff; 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: System Program Director is 
responsible for day-to-day program management and reports to the 
Program Executive Officer. 

Program Executive Officer oversees program and reports to the tri-
agency Executive Committee. 

Key area: Number of satellites; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 6 (in addition to NPP); 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 4 (in addition to NPP). 

Key area: Number of orbits; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 3 (early morning, midmorning, 
and afternoon); 
Program after the Nunn- McCurdy decision: 2 (early morning and 
afternoon; 
will rely on European satellites for midmorning orbit data). 

Key area: Number and complement of instruments; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 13 instruments (10 sensors 
and 3 subsystems); 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 9 instruments (7 sensors and 2 
subsystems); 
4 of the sensors are to provide fewer capabilities. 

Key area: Number of EDRs; 
Program before the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 55; 
Program after the Nunn-McCurdy decision: 39 (6 are to be degraded 
products). 

Source: GAO analysis of NPOESS program office data. 

[A] Although the Nunn-McCurdy certification decision specifies NPP is 
to launch by January 2010, NASA planned to launch it by September 2009 
to reduce the possibility of a climate data continuity gap. 

[End of table] 

The Nunn-McCurdy certification decision established new milestones for 
the delivery of key program elements, including launching NPP by 
January 2010, launching the first NPOESS satellite by January 2013, and 
launching the second NPOESS satellite by January 2016. These revised 
milestones deviated from prior plans to have the first NPOESS satellite 
available to back up the final POES satellite should anything go wrong 
during that launch. 

Delaying the launch of the first NPOESS satellite meant that if the 
final POES satellite fails on launch, satellite data users would need 
to rely on the existing constellation of environmental satellites until 
NPP data becomes available--almost 2 years later. Although NPP was not 
intended to be an operational asset, NASA agreed to move NPP to a 
different orbit so that its data would be available in the event of a 
premature failure of the final POES satellite. If the health of the 
existing constellation of satellites diminishes--or if NPP data is not 
available, timely, and reliable--there could be a gap in environmental 
satellite data. 

In order to reduce program complexity, the Nunn-McCurdy certification 
decision decreased the number of NPOESS sensors from 13 to 9 and 
reduced the functionality of 4 sensors. Specifically, of the 13 
original sensors, 5 sensors remain unchanged (but 2 are on a reduced 
number of satellites), 3 were replaced with older or less capable 
sensors, 1 was modified to provide less functionality, and 4 were 
canceled. The certification decision also made allowances for the 
reintegration of the cancelled sensors. Specifically, the program was 
directed to build each NPOESS spacecraft with enough room and power to 
accommodate the sensors that were removed from the program and to fund 
the integration and testing of any sensors that are later restored. 
Agency sponsors external to the program would be responsible for 
justifying and funding the sensor's development, while the NPOESS 
Executive Committee would have the final decision on whether to include 
the sensor on a specific satellite. Table 3 identifies the changes to 
the NPOESS instruments. 

Table 3: Changes to NPOESS Instruments (critical sensors in bold): 

Instrument: Advanced technology microwave sounder; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor unchanged; 
to be included on NPP and on afternoon satellites. 

Instrument: Aerosol polarimetry sensor; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was 
canceled[A]. 

Instrument: Conical-scanned microwave imager/sounder; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was canceled; 
program office to procure a less complex microwave imager/sounder for 
inclusion beginning on the second NPOESS satellite. 

Instrument: Cross-track infrared sounder; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor unchanged; 
to be included on NPP and on afternoon satellites. 

Instrument: Data collection system; 
Status of instrument after Nunn- McCurdy Decision: No change; 
subsystem is to be included on all four NPOESS satellites. 

Instrument: Earth radiation budget sensor; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was canceled; 
is to be replaced by a legacy sensor[A]. 

Instrument: Ozone mapper/profiler suite; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: One part of the 
sensor (OMPS-Limb) was canceled; 
remaining part is to be included on NPP and on all four NPOESS 
satellites[A]. 

Instrument: Radar altimeter; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was 
canceled[A]. 

Instrument: Search and rescue satellite aided tracking system; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor unchanged; 
subsystem is to be included on all four NPOESS satellites. 

Instrument: Space environmental sensor suite; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was canceled; 
is to be replaced by a less capable, less expensive legacy sensor[A]. 

Instrument: Survivability sensor; 
Status of instrument after Nunn- McCurdy Decision: Subsystem was 
canceled[A]. 

Instrument: Total solar irradiance sensor; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor was 
canceled[A]. 

Instrument: Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite; 
Status of instrument after Nunn-McCurdy Decision: Sensor unchanged; 
sensor is to be included on NPP and on all four NPOESS satellites. 

Source: GAO analysis of NPOESS program office data. 

[A] While direct program funding for these sensors was eliminated, 
these sensors could be reintegrated should other parties choose to fund 
them. The Nunn-McCurdy certification decision notes that the spacecraft 
is to include space for these sensors and funds to integrate them. 

[End of table] 

The changes in NPOESS sensors affected the number and quality of the 
resulting weather and environmental products, called environmental data 
records (EDR). In selecting sensors for the restructured program during 
the Nunn-McCurdy process, decision makers placed the highest priority 
on continuing current operational weather capabilities and a lower 
priority on obtaining selected environmental and climate measuring 
capabilities. As a result, the revised NPOESS system has significantly 
less capability for providing global climate measures than was 
originally planned. Specifically, the number of EDRs was decreased from 
55 to 39, of which 6 are of a reduced quality. The 39 EDRs that remain 
include cloud base height, land surface temperature, precipitation type 
and rate, and sea surface winds. The 16 EDRs that were removed include 
cloud particle size and distribution, sea surface height, net solar 
radiation at the top of the atmosphere, and products to depict the 
electric fields in the space environment. The 6 EDRs that are of a 
reduced quality include ozone profile, soil moisture, and multiple 
products depicting energy in the space environment. 

Major Restructuring Activities Have Been Completed, but Key Remaining 
Activities Could Affect Funding and Schedule: 

The program office has completed major activities associated with 
restructuring NPOESS, but key supporting activities remain--including 
obtaining approval of key acquisition documents--and delays in 
completing these activities could affect the program's funding and 
schedule. Restructuring a major acquisition program like NPOESS is a 
process that involves reassessing and redefining the program's 
deliverables, costs, and schedules, and renegotiating the contract. The 
restructuring process also involves revising important acquisition 
documents such as the tri-agency memorandum of agreement, the 
acquisition strategy, the system engineering plan, the integrated 
master schedule defining what needs to happen by when, and the 
acquisition program baseline. In April 2007, we reported that the key 
acquisition documents were over six months late from their original 
September 2006 due date, and we recommended that the appropriate 
executives immediately finalize them[Footnote 11]. This recommendation 
has not yet been addressed and agency officials subsequently extended 
the due dates of the documents to September 2007. 

During the past year, the program redefined the program's deliverables, 
costs, and schedules, and renegotiated the NPOESS contract. To do so, 
the program developed a new program plan and conducted an integrated 
baseline review of the entire program, which validated that the new 
deliverables, costs, and schedules were feasible. It also completed key 
acquisition documents including the system engineering plan and the 
integrated master schedule. The program and the prime contractor signed 
a modified contract in July 2007. 

However, key activities remain to be completed, including obtaining 
executive approval of key acquisition documents. Specifically, even 
though agency officials were expected to approve key acquisition 
documents by September 2007, the appropriate executives have not yet 
signed off on documents including the tri-agency memorandum of 
agreement or the acquisition strategy report. They have also not signed 
off on the acquisition program baseline, the fee management plan, the 
test and evaluation master plan, and the two-orbit program plan (a plan 
for how to use European satellite data with NPOESS). 

Program officials stated that the program has been able to renegotiate 
the contract and to proceed in developing sensors and systems without 
these documents being signed because the documents have widespread 
acceptance within the three agencies. They reported that the delays are 
largely due to the complexity of obtaining approval from three 
agencies. For example, program officials reported that an organization 
within DOD suggested minor changes to the tri-agency memorandum of 
agreement after months of coordination and after it had already been 
signed by both the Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of NASA. 
Further, after this issue was resolved, a senior official at DOD 
requested another change to the document. The program office has now 
made the recommended changes and is re-initiating the coordination 
process. 

More recently, in April 2008, DOD moved the due dates for all of the 
acquisition documents other than the memorandum of agreement and fee 
management plan from September 2007 to August 31, 2008. (See appendix I 
for the history of the due dates and status of each document). In 
addition, even though DOD has had a role in delaying these documents, 
the Department has stated it would not release fiscal year 2009 funds 
to the program if these acquisition documents are not completed by the 
new due date. Without executive approval of key acquisition documents, 
the program lacks the underlying commitment necessary to effectively 
manage a tri-agency program. In addition, given DOD's newest 
instructions, any further delays in completing these acquisition 
documents could affect the program's funding and schedule. 

Program Has Made Progress, but Key Milestones Have Been Delayed and 
Risks Remain: 

Over the last year, the NPOESS program has made progress by completing 
planned development and testing activities on its ground and space 
segments, but key milestones for delivering the VIIRS sensor and 
launching NPP have been delayed by about 8 months. Moving forward, 
risks remain in completing the testing of key sensors and integrating 
them on the NPP spacecraft, in resolving interagency disagreements on 
the appropriate level of system security, and in revising estimated 
costs for satellite operations and support. The program office is aware 
of these risks and is working to mitigate them, but continued problems 
could affect the program's overall schedule and cost. Given the tight 
time frames for completing key sensors, integrating them on the NPP 
spacecraft, and getting the ground-based data processing system 
developed, tested, and deployed, it is important for the NPOESS 
Integrated Program Office, the Program Executive Office, and the 
Executive Committee to continue to provide close oversight of 
milestones and risks. 

Ground Segment--Progress Made but Important Work Remains to Be Done: 

Development of the ground segment--which includes the interface data 
processing system, the ground stations that are to receive satellite 
data, and the ground-based command, control, and communications system-
-is under way and on track. For example, the Interface Data Processing 
System has been installed at one of the two locations that are to 
receive NPP data, and the command, control, and communications system 
passed acceptance testing for use with NPP. However, important work in 
developing the algorithms that translate satellite data into weather 
products within the integrated data processing segment remains to be 
completed. Table 4 describes each of the components of the ground 
segment and identifies the program-provided risk level and status of 
each. 

Table 4: Status of Ground Segment Components: 

Ground segment component/ description: Interface Data Processing System 
(IDPS)--; 
A ground-based system that is to process the sensors' data so that they 
are usable by the data processing centers and the broader community of 
environmental data users. IDPS will be deployed at the four weather 
data processing centers; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: IDPS software is being developed in a series of builds. In 
2007, software developers required additional resources and fell behind 
schedule on build 1.5 activities due to unanticipated complexities in 
developing algorithms that will make use of data collected by the Ozone 
mapper/profiler suite in orbit--as well as late delivery of key 
information on this instrument. 

As of January 2008, IDPS build 1.5 had been developed and was 
undergoing testing to check the quality of its performance; 
additional builds are planned to be developed prior to launch and will 
be used with NPP. 

In January 2008, IDPS hardware was installed at one of the data 
processing centers (NOAA's National Satellite Operations Facility in 
Suitland, Maryland) and is expected to be installed at the Air Force 
Weather Agency this summer. In addition, the Air Force Weather Agency 
has begun early testing of NPOESS data. Site acceptance testing for NPP 
is scheduled to be completed in December 2008. 

Ground segment component/ description: Ground stations for receiving 
satellite data--. 

15 unmanned ground stations around the world (called SafetyNet™) are to 
receive satellite data and send it to the four data processing centers; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: NOAA is working with domestic and foreign authorities to obtain 
approval to operate ground stations to receive satellite data. 
According to agency officials, the full complement of ground stations 
will not be in place in time for the first NPOESS satellite launch. The 
ground stations will be phased in by the launch of the second 
satellite. To date, the program office has reached agreement with 4 of 
15 ground station sites. 

Ground segment component/ description: Command, control, and 
communications segment--. 

Performs the day-to-day monitoring and command of the spacecraft and 
sensors; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: The command, control, and communications segment is being 
developed in a series of builds. In August 2007, build 1.4 transitioned 
from development to operations and support. In addition, the command, 
control, and communications acceptance testing for NPP has been 
completed. 

Source: GAO summary of NPOESS program office data. 

[End of table] 

Space Segment--Progress Made, but One Sensor Was Delayed and Sensors 
Continue to Face Risks: 

Over the past year, the program made progress on the development of the 
space segment, which includes the sensors and the spacecraft. Five 
sensors are of critical importance because they are to be launched on 
the NPP satellite.[Footnote 12] Initiating work on another sensor, the 
Microwave Imager Sounder, is also important because this new sensor-- 
which is to replace the canceled Conical-scanned microwave imager/ 
sounder sensor--will need to be developed in time for the second NPOESS 
satellite launch. Among other activities, the program has successfully 
completed vibration testing of the flight unit of the Cross-track 
infrared sounder (CrIS), a major pre-environmental testing review for 
the VIIRS instrument, integration and risk reduction testing of the 
flight unit of the Ozone mapper/profiler suite, and thermal testing of 
the NPP spacecraft with three sensors on board.[Footnote 13] In 
addition, the program made decisions on how to proceed with the 
Microwave imager sounder and recently awarded a contract to a 
government laboratory for its development. 

However, the program experienced problems on VIIRS, including poor 
workmanship on selected subcomponents and delays in completing key 
tests. These issues delayed VIIRS delivery to the NPP contractor by 8 
months. This late delivery will in turn delay the satellite's launch 
from late September 2009 to early June 2010. This delay shortens the 
time available for incorporating lessons learned from NPP while it is 
in orbit into future NPOESS missions and could lead to gaps in the 
continuity of climate and weather data if predecessor satellites fail 
prematurely. Also, the CrIS sensor experienced a cost overrun and 
schedule delays as the contractor worked to recover from a structural 
failure and is currently several weeks behind its schedule due to 
thermal vacuum testing taking longer than planned. The status and risk 
level of each of the components of the space segment is described in 
table 5. 

Table 5: Status of Selected Components of the Space Segment, as of May 
2008: 

Space segment component: Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite 
(VIIRS); 
Program-identified risk level: High; 
Status: In April 2007, we reported that the contractor had identified a 
problem with the VIIRS baseline filter during environmental testing 
that caused degraded performance in the filter's image quality. 
Specifically, this problem involves light leaking across the seams of 
the filter, resulting in inaccurate measurements of ocean color. In 
October 2007, the NPOESS Executive Committee decided to continue sensor 
development with the baseline filter because changing it would increase 
risks to sensor development, delay the delivery of the sensor, and risk 
delays to the launch of NPP. An improved VIIRS filter is planned to be 
included on the flight units on future NPOESS missions. 

More recently, the VIIRS contractor experienced problems with 
workmanship on electrical and cryoradiator components and delays in 
executing tests.[A] These factors slowed the sensor's development. 

The VIIRS flight unit was originally scheduled to be delivered to NPP 
by July 2008, but due to technical issues and testing schedule delays, 
VIIRS' delivery to NPP is now planned for April 2009. 

Space segment component: Cross-track infrared sounder (CrIS); 
Program- identified risk level: Moderate; 
Status: In April 2007, we reported that development of CrIS was put on 
hold in October 2006 when the flight unit designated to go on NPP 
experienced a major structural failure during its vibration testing. 
Acceptance testing began again in mid-2007, and the structural 
stability of the frame was approved in August 2007. The flight unit is 
currently undergoing thermal vacuum testing--which has taken longer 
than planned. The flight unit was expected to be delivered to NPP by 
May 2008, but it is now expected to be delivered in August 2008. 

Space segment component: Ozone mapper/profiler suite (nadir and limb); 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: In April 2007, program officials had agreed to fund the 
reintegration of the limb component on NPP. The first flight unit 
completed key integration risk reduction testing and is expected to be 
delivered to the NPP contractor for integration in August 2008. 

Space segment component: Advanced technology microwave sounder; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: The flight unit for NPP was developed by a NASA contractor and 
delivered to the program in October 2005. The NPP contractor integrated 
the flight unit on the spacecraft in December 2006 and is awaiting 
delivery of the other sensors in order to complete integration testing. 

Space segment component: Clouds and the earth's radiant energy system; 
Program-identified risk level: Not yet rated; 
Status: In January 2008, the NPOESS Executive Committee approved 
including this instrument on NPP. The sensor has already been built but 
requires some refurbishment. It is expected to be delivered to the NPP 
spacecraft for integration in October 2008. In January 2008, the 
program office was directed to develop an additional sensor for the 
first NPOESS satellite. 

Space segment component: Microwave imager/ sounder; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: A new microwave imager/sounder sensor is being planned to 
replace the canceled Conical-scanned microwave imager/ sounder. In May 
2008, the program office selected the U.S. Naval Research Lab to 
develop the sensor for the second NPOESS satellite. If it is more cost 
effective to do so, the program office plans to move production of the 
second and third MIS sensors to a contractor. 

Space segment component: Spacecraft; 
Program-identified risk level: Low; 
Status: Both the development of the spacecraft for NPP and the 
spacecraft for NPOESS are on track; The NPP spacecraft was completed in 
June 2005. The NPP contractor has completed over a year's worth of risk 
reduction activities, which included thermal testing of the spacecraft 
with three of the sensors on board; The critical design review of the 
first NPOESS spacecraft is scheduled to be completed in April 2009, 
with the launch date scheduled for January 2013. 

Source: GAO analysis of NPOESS Integrated Program Office data. 

[A] The cryoradiator is a key component of the VIIRS sensor. It is 
intended to cool down components of the sensor. 

[End of table] 

Program Risks Remain; Continued Oversight Is Needed to Prevent Further 
Cost Increases and Schedule Delays: 

Moving forward, the program continues to face risks. Over the next 2 
years, it will need to complete the development of the key sensors, 
test them, integrate and test them on the NPP spacecraft, and test 
these systems with the ground-based data processing systems. In 
addition, the program faces two other issues that could affect its 
overall schedule and cost. One is that there continues to be 
disagreement between NOAA and DOD on the appropriate level of system 
security. To date, NPOESS has been designed and developed to meet DOD's 
standards for a mission essential system, but NOAA officials believe 
that the system should be built to meet more stringent 
standards.[Footnote 14] Implementing more stringent standards could 
cause rework and retesting, and potentially affect the cost and 
schedule of the system. Another issue is that program life cycle costs 
could increase once a better estimate of the cost of operations and 
support is known. The $12.5 billion estimated life cycle cost for 
NPOESS includes a rough estimate of $1 billion for operations and 
support. 

The NPOESS program office is working closely with the contractor and 
subcontractors to resolve these program risks. To address sensor risks, 
the program office and officials from NASA's Goddard Space Flight 
Center commissioned an independent review team to assess the 
thoroughness and adequacy of practices being used in the assembly, 
integration, and testing of the VIIRS and CrIS instruments in 
preparation for the NPP spacecraft. The team found that the contractors 
for both sensors had sound test programs in place, but noted risks with 
VIIRS's schedule and with CrIS's reliability and performance. The 
program office adjusted the VIIRS testing schedule and is monitoring 
the CrIS testing results. In addition, the program office recently 
instituted biweekly senior-level management meetings to review progress 
on VIIRS's development, and program officials noted that both the prime 
contractor and the program executive office will have senior officials 
onsite at the contractor's facility to provide extensive, day-to-day 
oversight of management activities to assist in resolving issues. 

To address the risk posed by changing security requirements late in the 
system's development, program officials commissioned a study to 
determine the effect of more stringent standards on the system. This 
study was completed in March 2008, but has not yet been released. To 
address the risk of cost growth due to poor estimates of operations and 
support costs, DOD's cost analysis group is currently refining this 
estimate. Program officials estimated that the program costs could grow 
by about $1 billion, and expect to finalize revised operations and 
support costs in July 2008. 

The program office is aware of program risks and is working to mitigate 
them, but these issues could affect the program's overall schedule and 
cost. Given the tight time frames for completing key sensors, 
integrating them on the NPP spacecraft, and getting the ground-based 
data processing system developed, tested, and deployed, it is important 
for the NPOESS program office, the Program Executive Office, and the 
Executive Committee to continue to provide close oversight of 
milestones and risks. 

Agencies Have Undertaken Preliminary Steps to Restore Key Sensors, but 
Lack Timely Plans to Ensure Long-Term Data Continuity: 

When the NPOESS restructuring agreement removed four climate and space 
environment sensors from the program and degraded four others, it led 
NASA, NOAA, and DOD to reassess their priorities and options for 
obtaining climate and space environment data. Since the June 2006 
restructuring decision, the three agencies have taken preliminary steps 
to restore the capabilities of selected climate and space weather 
sensors that were degraded or removed from the NPOESS program by 
prioritizing the sensors, assessing options for restoring them, and 
making decisions to restore selected sensors in order to mitigate near- 
term data gaps. However, the agencies have not yet developed plans to 
mitigate the loss of these sensors on a long-term basis. Best practices 
in strategic planning suggest that agencies develop and implement long- 
term plans to guide their short-term activities. Until such plans are 
developed, the agencies may lose their windows of opportunity for 
selecting cost-effective options or they may resort to an ad hoc 
approach to restoring these sensors. Lacking plans almost 2 years after 
key sensors were removed from the NPOESS program, the agencies face 
increased risk of gaps in the continuity of climate and space 
environment data. 

While NPOESS was originally envisioned to provide only weather 
observations, this mission was later expanded to include long-term 
continuity for key climate data. Maintaining the continuity of climate 
and space data over decades is important to identify long-term 
environmental cycles (such as the 11-year solar cycle and multiyear 
ocean cycles including the El Niño effect) and their impacts, and to 
detect trends in climate change and global warming. The Nunn-McCurdy 
restructuring decision removed four sensors and degraded the 
functionality of four other sensors that were to provide these data. 
DOD, NASA, and NOAA are now responsible for determining what to 
restore, how to restore it, and the means for doing so. This 
responsibility includes justifying the additional funding needed to 
develop these sensors within their respective agencies' investment 
decision processes. Best practices of leading organizations call for 
defining a strategic plan to formalize priorities and plans for meeting 
mission goals. Such a plan would include the agency's long-term goals 
for climate and space weather measurements, the short-term activities 
needed to attain these goals, and the milestones and resources needed 
to support the planned activities. 

NASA, NOAA, and DOD Have Identified Priorities, Assessed Options, and 
Made Decisions to Restore Selected Sensors: 

Since the June 2006 restructuring, NASA, NOAA, and DOD have taken 
preliminary steps to restore sensor capabilities by determining 
priorities for restoring sensor capabilities, assessing options for 
obtaining sensor data over time, and making decisions to restore 
selected sensors. Specifically, in August 2006, the NPOESS Senior User 
Advisory Group--a group representing NASA, NOAA, and DOD system users-
-assessed the impact of the canceled or degraded sensors and identified 
priorities for restoring them. In January 2007, a NOAA and NASA working 
group on climate sensors prioritized which of the sensors were most 
important to restore for climate purposes and proposed possible 
solutions and mitigation efforts. Two other groups--the National 
Research Council and a NOAA-DOD working group--have also issued reports 
describing the impact of the loss of climate and space environmental 
sensors, respectively.[Footnote 15] Table 6 summarizes the results of 
these studies. 

Table 6: Summary of Studies on Impacts of the Loss of Sensors and 
Priorities for Restoring Them: 

Sensor/ Description: Aerosol polarimetry sensor; 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Decreased ability to improve air quality 
monitoring over time; 
­Decreased ability to improve understanding of aerosol's impact on the 
earth's radiation budget; that is, whether aerosols play a role in 
global warming; ­Decreased ability to study the global distribution of 
aerosols and the impact of aerosols on climate; ­Decreased ability to 
improve military munitions targeting and intelligence collection; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 6; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 7. 

Sensor/ Description: Conical-scanned microwave imager/sounder, to be 
replaced by the Microwave imager/sounder; 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Cancellation of the Conical-scanned 
microwave imager/sounder raised concerns about the loss of critical 
environmental data including sea surface temperatures, ice and snow 
cover, and ocean surface wind speed; ­The Microwave imager/sounder is 
intended to replace the Conical-scanned microwave imager/sounder. 
However, because the new sensor's capabilities have not yet been fully 
defined, the impact of the cancellation of the Conical-scanned 
microwave imager/sounder is not clear; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 5; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 2. 

Sensor/ Description: Earth radiation budget sensor (being replaced on 
selected satellites by an existing sensor, the Clouds and the earth's 
radiant energy system); 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Decreased ability to measure the amount 
of energy entering and leaving the earth; ­Reduced ability to determine 
the causes of climate variability and change; ­Disruption of an over 28-
year measurement heritage of earth radiation budget data, which is 
needed to assess long-term trends; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 2; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 6. 

Sensor/ Description: Ozone mapper/profiler suite (limb); 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Decreased ability to understand the 
health of the ozone layer which absorbs solar ultraviolet radiation 
that is potentially harmful to humans; ­Decreased ability to improve 
global warming and air quality models to differentiate the impact of 
changing ozone levels within the atmosphere; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 4; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 4. 

Sensor/ Description: Space environmental sensor suite (to be replaced 
on selected satellites by an existing technology sensor, the Space 
environment monitor); 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Decreased understanding of the effect of 
space weather on military and civilian communications and electrical 
systems--and ability to take timely mitigation actions; ­Decreased 
situational awareness for missile intercept capabilities; ­Decreased 
ability to assess Global Positioning System (GPS) accuracy; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: unranked; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 1. 

Sensor/ Description: Total solar irradiance sensor; 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Decreased ability to understand the 
influence of natural causes of climate change; ­Disruption of an over 
28-year measurement heritage of solar irradiance data, which is needed 
to assess long-term trends; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 1; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 5. 

Sensor/ Description: Radar altimeter; 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Reduced number of sea surface height and 
other ocean measurements used in climate monitoring; ­Decreased ability 
to measure sea-air interactions that affect regional weather patterns, 
such as El Niño; ­Decreased understanding of storm intensification 
(e.g., hurricanes), coastal turbulence, and underwater features 
important to sailors; Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: 
3; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 3. 

Sensor/ Description: Survivability sensor; 
Likely impact of sensor loss: ­Sensor was to identify possible threats 
to the NPOESS spacecraft and has no impact on climate observations; 
Climate Working Group's priority for restoration: unranked; 
NPOESS Advisory Group's priority for restoration: 8. 

Source: GAO analysis of NASA, NOAA, DOD, and NRC data. 

[End of table] 

In addition to prioritizing the sensors, NASA, NOAA, and DOD identified 
a variety of options for obtaining key sensor data over the next two 
decades and continue to seek other options. The agencies identified 
options including adding sensors back to a later NPOESS satellite, 
adding sensors to another planned satellite, and developing a new 
satellite to include several of the sensors. Examples of options for 
several sensors are provided in figure 1. In addition, in December 
2007, NOAA released a request for information to determine whether 
commercial providers could include selected environmental sensors on 
their satellites. 

Figure 1: Selected Options for Restoring Selected Climate Sensors, as 
of May 2008: 

This figure is a horizontal flowchart showing selected options for 
restoring selected climate sensors, as of May 2008. 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: DOD, NASA, and NOAA data. 

Notes: (1) The satellites Terra, Aqua, Aura, Glory, and the Solar 
radiation and climate experiment (SORCE) are all NASA missions. Jason- 
1 is a joint mission between NASA and France, and the Ocean surface 
topography mission (OSTM) is a joint mission between NASA, NOAA, 
France, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of 
Meteorological Satellites. 

(2) The MIS sensor is not included in this chart because NOAA, NASA, 
and DOD have already agreed to include it on the second, third, and 
fourth NPOESS satellites. Options for the Space environment sensor 
suite/ Space environment monitor and the Survivability sensor are not 
included because DOD has not yet released them. 

[End of figure] 

In addition to prioritizing sensors and identifying options, over the 
last year, NASA, NOAA, and DOD have taken steps to restore three 
sensors on a near-term basis. Specifically, in April 2007, the NPOESS 
Executive Committee decided to restore the limb component of the Ozone 
mapper/profiler suite to the NPP satellite; in January 2008, to add the 
Clouds and the earth's radiant energy sensor to NPP; and in May 2008 to 
add the Total solar irradiance sensor to the first NPOESS satellite. 
These decisions are expected to provide continuity for these sensors 
through approximately 2015. Table 7 shows the latest planned 
configuration of NPOESS satellites. NASA officials noted that they also 
took steps to mitigate a potential gap in total solar irradiance data 
by proposing to fund an additional 4 years of the SORCE mission (from 
2008 to 2012). 

Table 7: Planned Configuration of Instruments on NPP and NPOESS 
Satellites, as of May 2008 (critical sensors are in bold): 

Instrument: Advanced technology microwave sounder (unchanged); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Aerosol polarimetry sensor (canceled); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): --; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): --. 

Instrument: Microwave imager/sounder (replacing the canceled Conical- 
scanned microwave imager/sounder); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): --; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): X; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): X. 

Instrument: Cross-track infrared sounder (unchanged); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Data collection system (unchanged); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): X; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): X. 

Instrument: Earth radiation budget sensor (canceled, but replaced on 
NPP and C1 by the Clouds and the earth's radiant energy system sensor); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): --; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): --. 

Instrument: Ozone mapper/profiler suite (nadir-unchanged); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): --; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): --. 

Instrument: Ozone mapper/profiler suite (limb) (canceled, but added to 
NPP); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): --; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): --. 

Instrument: Radar altimeter (canceled); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): --; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): --; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Space environmental sensor suite (canceled); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Space environment monitor (replacing selected capabilities 
of the space environmental sensor suite); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): --; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): --. 

Instrument: Total solar irradiance sensor (canceled but added to NPOESS 
C1); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): -- ; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Survivability sensor (canceled); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): O; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): O; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): O. 

Instrument: Search and rescue satellite aided tracking system 
(unchanged); 
NPP: --; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): X; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): X. 

Instrument: Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite (unchanged); 
NPP: X; 
NPOESS C1 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C2 (AM): X; 
NPOESS C3 (PM): X; 
NPOESS C4 (AM): X. 

Source: GAO analysis of program office data. 

Key: 

X = Sensor is currently planned for this satellite: 

O = Sensor was canceled but could be restored to this satellite: 

-- = Not applicable--sensor was never planned for this satellite: 

[End of table] 

Agencies Lack Plans to Ensure Long-Term Data Continuity: 

While NASA, NOAA, and DOD have taken preliminary steps to address the 
climate and space sensors that were removed from the NPOESS program 
almost 2 years ago, they do not yet have plans for restoring climate 
and space environment data on a long-term basis. Specifically, there 
are as yet no firm plans for obtaining most of this data after 2015. 
The Office of Science and Technology Policy, an organization within the 
Executive Office of the President, is currently working with NASA, 
NOAA, and DOD to sort through the costs and benefits of the various 
options and to develop plans. However, this effort has been under way 
for almost 2 years and officials could not estimate when such plans 
would be completed. 

Delays in developing a comprehensive strategy for ensuring climate and 
space data continuity may result in the loss of selected options. For 
example, NASA and NOAA estimated that they would need to make a 
decision on whether to build another satellite to obtain ocean 
altimeter data in 2008. Also, the NPOESS program office estimated that 
if any sensors are to be restored to an NPOESS satellite, it would need 
a decision about 6 years in advance of the planned satellite launch. 
Specifically, for a sensor to be included on the second NPOESS 
satellite, the sponsoring agency would need to commit to do so by 
January 2010. 

Without a timely decision on a plan for restoring satellite data on a 
long-term basis, NASA, NOAA, and DOD risk losing their windows of 
opportunity on selected options and restoring sensors in an ad hoc 
manner. Ultimately, the agencies risk a break in the continuity of 
climate and space environment data. As national and international 
concerns about climate change and global warming grow, these data are 
more important than ever to try to understand long-term climate trends 
and impacts. 

GAO Made Recommendations To Ensure That Future Climate Needs are 
Addressed and to Complete Restructuring Activities: 

Because of the importance of effectively managing the NPOESS program to 
ensure that there are no gaps in the continuity of critical weather, 
environmental, and climate observations, in our accompanying 
report[Footnote 16] we made recommendations to the Secretaries of 
Commerce and Defense and to the Administrator of NASA to establish 
plans on whether and how to restore the climate and space sensors 
removed from the NPOESS program by June 2009, in cases where the 
sensors are warranted and justified. In their comments on the report, 
all three agencies concurred with our recommendations. In addition, 
both the Department of Commerce and NASA reiterated that they are 
working with their partner agencies to finalize plans for restoring 
sensors. 

In addition, we also reemphasized a recommendation made in our prior 
report that the appropriate NASA, NOAA, and DOD executives immediately 
finalize key acquisition documents. All three agencies also concurred 
with this recommendation. Further, Commerce noted that DOD and NASA 
executives need to weigh in to resolve issues at, or immediately below, 
their levels in order to ensure prompt completion of the key 
acquisition documents. NASA noted that difficulties in gaining 
consensus across all three NPOESS agencies have delayed the signature 
of key acquisition documents, and reported that they are committed to 
moving these documents through the signature cycle once all of the 
issues and concerns are resolved. 

In summary, over the past year, program officials have completed major 
activities associated with restructuring the NPOESS program and have 
made progress in developing and testing sensors, ground systems, and 
the NPP spacecraft. However, multiple risks remain. Agency executives 
have still not signed off on key acquisition documents that were 
originally to be completed in September 2006, and now DOD is 
threatening to withhold funding if the documents are not completed by 
August 2008--even though DOD has contributed to the delays in 
completing these documents. Also, one critical sensor has experienced 
technical problems and schedule delays that have led program officials 
to delay the NPP launch date by about 8 months. Any delay in the NPP 
launch date shortens the time available for incorporating lessons 
learned from NPP onto future NPOESS missions and could also lead to 
gaps in critical climate and weather data. In addition, risks to the 
program remain in resolving interagency disagreements on the 
appropriate level of system security and in revising estimated costs 
for satellite operations and support. The program office is aware of 
these risks and is working to mitigate them, but continued problems 
could affect the program's overall schedule and cost. 

When selected climate and space weather sensors were removed from the 
NPOESS program during its restructuring, NASA, NOAA, and DOD became 
responsible for determining what environmental data to restore and how 
to restore them. This responsibility includes justifying the additional 
funding needed to develop these sensors within their respective 
agency's investment decision processes. In the 2 years since the 
restructuring, the agencies have identified their priorities and 
assessed their options for restoring sensor capabilities. In addition, 
the agencies made decisions to restore two sensors to the NPP satellite 
and one to the first NPOESS satellite in order to mitigate near-term 
data gaps. However, the agencies lack plans for restoring sensor 
capabilities on a long-term basis. Without a timely decision on a long- 
term plan for restoring satellite data, the agencies risk a break in 
the continuity of climate and space environment data. With the 
increased concern about climate change and global warming, these data 
are more important than ever to try to understand long-term climate 
trends and impacts. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer 
any questions that you or members of the committee may have at this 
time. 

If you have any questions on matters discussed in this testimony, 
please contact me at (202) 512-9286 or by e-mail at pownerd@gao.gov. 
Other key contributors to this testimony include Colleen Phillips 
(Assistant Director), Kate Agatone, and Kathleen S. Lovett. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Status of Key Acquisition Documents: 

Table 1 identifies the key NPOESS acquisition documents as well as 
their original and revised due dates. Original due dates were specified 
in the June 2006 restructuring decision memo. The revised due dates 
were specified in an addendum to that memo, dated June 2007, and then 
revised again in another addendum, dated April 2008. Documents that are 
in bold are overdue. 

Table 8: Status of NPOESS Acquisition Documents: 

Acquisition document: Alternative Management Plan; 
Original due date: June 2007; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Award Fee Plan/ Fee Management Plan; 
Original due date: Unspecified; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: October 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Due date not revised--remains 
October 1, 2007; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: Acquisition Program Baseline; 
Original due date: September 1, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: December 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: August 31, 2008; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: Acquisition Strategy Report; 
Original due date: September 1, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: August 31, 2008; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: Test and Evaluation Master Plan; 
Original due date: September 1, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: March 1, 2008; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: August 31, 2008; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: System Engineering Plan; 
Original due date: September 1, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Two-Orbit Plan; 
Original due date: November 15, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: October 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: August 31, 2008; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: Human Capital Management Plan (to fill vacancies 
in the Integrated Program Office); 
Original due date: August 4, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Logistics Support Plan; 
Original due date: September 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Diminishing Manufacturing Sources/; 
Parts Obsolescence Plan; 
Original due date: September 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Tri-agency Memorandum of Agreement; 
Original due date: August 4, 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Due date not revised--remains 
September 1, 2007; 
Status: Not completed. 

Acquisition document: Integrated Master Plan; 
Original due date: April 2007; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Acquisition document: Quarterly Integrated Baseline Review; 
Original due date: September 2006; 
Revised due date, as of June 2007: September 1, 2007; 
Revised due date, as of April 2008: Not applicable; 
Status: Completed. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD and NPOESS program office data. 

[End of table] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Environmental Satellites: Polar-orbiting Satellite Acquisition 
Faces Delay; Decisions Needed on Whether and How to Ensure Climate Data 
Continuity, GAO-08-518 (Washington, D.C.: May 16, 2008). 

[2] GAO, Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites: 
Restructuring is Under Way, but Technical Challenges and Risks Remain, 
GAO-07-498 (Washington, D.C.: April 27, 2007). 

[3] GAO-07-498 

[4] Presidential Decision Directive NSTC-2, May 5, 1994 

[5] The four sensors are the Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite, 
the Cross-track infrared sounder, the Advanced technology microwave 
sounder, and the Ozone mapper/profiler suite. 

[6] GAO, Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites: Cost 
Increases Trigger Review and Place Program's Direction on Hold, GAO-06- 
573T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 2006); GAO, Polar-orbiting Operational 
Environmental Satellites: Technical Problems, Cost Increases, and 
Schedule Delays Trigger Need for Difficult Trade-off Decisions, GAO-06- 
249T (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 16, 2005); GAO, Polar-orbiting 
Environmental Satellites: Information on Program Cost and Schedule 
Changes, GAO-04-1054 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 30, 2004); GAO, Polar- 
orbiting Environmental Satellites: Project Risks Could Affect Weather 
Data Needed by Civilian and Military Users, GAO-03-987T (Washington, 
D.C.: July 15, 2003); and GAO, Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellites: 
Status, Plans, and Future Data Management Challenges, GAO-02-684T 
(Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2002). 

[7] 10 U.S.C. § 2433 is commonly referred to as Nunn-McCurdy. 

[8] 10 U.S.C. § 2433 has recently been amended by Pub. L. No. 109-163, 
§ 802 (Jan. 6, 2006) and Pub. L. No. 109-364, § 213(a) (Oct. 17, 2006). 
The law now also includes cost growth thresholds from the program's 
original baseline. 

[9] DOD estimated that the acquisition portion of the certified program 
would cost $11.5 billion. The acquisition portion includes satellite 
development, production, and launch, but not operations and support 
costs after launch. When combined with an estimated $1 billion for 
operations and support after launch, this brings the program life cycle 
cost to $12.5 billion. 

[10] The European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological 
Satellites' MetOp program is a series of three polar-orbiting 
satellites dedicated to operational meteorology. MetOp satellites are 
planned to be launched sequentially over 14 years. The first of these 
satellites was launched in 2006 and is currently operational. 

[11] GAO-07-498. 

[12] NPP is to include the Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite, 
Cross-track infrared sounder, Advanced technology microwave sounder, 
Ozone mapper/profiler suite (nadir and limb), and the Clouds and the 
earth's radiant energy system. 

[13] The three sensors included the flight unit for the Advanced 
technology microwave sounder and engineering design units for the 
Visible/infrared imager radiometer suite and the Cross-track infrared 
sounder. 

[14] NOAA officials have stated that they believe the program should be 
built to a "high" security level per Federal Information Processing 
Standards Publication 199. 

[15] National Research Council, Options to Ensure the Climate Record 
from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report (Washington, 
D.C.: 2007), and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for 
Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, Impacts of NPOESS Nunn-
McCurdy Certification and Potential Loss of ACE Spacecraft Solar Wind 
Data on National Space Environmental Monitoring Capabilities. 
(Washington, D.C.: January 2008). The report committee was co-chaired 
by the director of the Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA) and the 
chief of the Integration, Plans, and Requirements division within the 
U.S. Air Force Directorate for Weather. Agency partners in the 
Department of Commerce, DOD, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and 
the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology concurred with 
the report. 

[16] GAO-08-518. 

[End of section] 

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