Hearing :: 4/23/2009 :: Continued Oversight of NOAA’s Geostationary Weather Satellite System

Opening Statement By Chairman Brian Baird

Good morning and welcome. The Subcommittee is meeting today to receive GAO’s latest report on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (GOES). From their stations above the equator, the GOES system tracks weather across the Western Hemisphere. It is one of two major satellite programs now underway at NOAA.

Development of the satellites and instruments for this series, GOES-R is a NASA responsibility. The GOES program has from the outset depended on cooperation between the two agencies, NASA and NOAA. It has not always been a happy partnership. The troubles in the polar satellite program are a stark warning of the dangers of interagency friction, and so the Subcommittee has asked NASA to participate today to allow discussion of its critical contributions to GOES-R success.

While the GOES program has not suffered from the same mismanagement and mistakes that have plagued the polar satellite replacement program, it has not been a model of excellence either. In our previous hearings we have learned that the preliminary cost estimate for these satellites had doubled and as a result NOAA found it necessary to cut the number of satellites to be ordered in half. Even so, as GAO forecasted, the program cost has again gone up.

At the same time, the GOES satellites lost the new instrument that would expand our ability to sample atmospheric conditions at more levels. NOAA found the technical challenges too great given the time and money it had. The Subcommittee asked our GAO team to review NOAA's plan for providing those lost capabilities; they report today that "…NOAA has not defined plans or a timeline for implementing any of the options or for addressing the requirements for advanced products.” I look forward to hearing both GAO and NOAA's testimony on this subject.

I would like to thank our witnesses for their testimony today, and I recognize the ranking member, Mr. Inglis, for his remarks.

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