Weather Forecasting:

NWS Has Not Demonstrated That New Processing System Will Improve Mission Effectiveness

AIMD-96-29: Published: Feb 29, 1996. Publicly Released: Feb 29, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Weather Service's (NWS) Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), focusing on whether the proposed AWIPS capabilities will improve weather forecasts and reduce staffing levels and the number of weather offices.

GAO found that NWS: (1) needs to replace the outdated systems that its field offices use and has developed 22,000 AWIPS requirements to support 450 capabilities to achieve its mission of improving forecasts and reducing staffing levels and the number of weather offices; (2) may be spending money unnecessarily on capabilities that do not contribute to its mission, since it has not justified whether proposed improvements to AWIPS are necessary to advance its mission efficiently and effectively; and (3) is developing a process to ensure that AWIPS requirements are not duplicative or obsolete, but the process does not trace all planned capabilities to stated mission improvement goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NOAA does not agree with the recommendation and does not intend to implement it. It is NOAA's position that specific system capabilities cannot be individually justified on the basis of mission impact, but must be considered together as an interconnected whole.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Assistant Administrator for Weather Services to expand ongoing AWIPS requirements review activities to include validation that proposed capabilities are justified on the basis of mission impact. At a minimum, such validation should include analyses of data and factual accounts from past and ongoing AWIPS prototype experiences that link those proposed capabilities to stated mission improvement goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NOAA does not agree with the recommendation and does not intend to implement it. This recommendation is tied to the previous one, which NOAA also does not intend to implement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Assistant Administrator for Weather Services to not implement any of those capabilities that are not validated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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