Subcommittees Review Progress of NOAA Weather Satellite Programs

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015

Today, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a joint Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Oversight hearing to get updates on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather satellites programs, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellite (GOES) system. These systems include the nation’s satellites that identify and track weather affecting the Western Hemisphere, including severe weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Today’s hearing is the second time this year the committee has heard updates from NOAA and the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) after the two satellite programs were added to the GAO’s ‘high risk’ list in 2013. Furthermore, NOAA recently announced that the launch date for the next-generation GOES satellites, GOES-R, will be delayed until October 2016, seven months later than previously scheduled. The launch delays leave the active systems at risk of failure without proper emergency backup structures.

Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA) of the Subcommittee on Oversight said, “Satellites have a critical role in weather forecasting. Losing coverage of either system could have serious or even catastrophic effects on public safety.” He continued, “The ongoing delays on these programs increase the cost of these satellites, distort NOAA’s budget, and limit the agency’s resources for weather forecasting and important research into weather, oceans, and climate science.”

Members spoke with the witnesses about strategies to ensure successful implementation of these programs. Both the members and the witnesses are eager to work together to find solutions for the ongoing issues plaguing these satellite systems.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement for the record, “These two programs will play a critical role in ensuring the continued health of our weather forecasting capability, and they both have been a key area of bipartisan oversight for the Committee.

“It is important for Congress to continue to work with NOAA and NASA to ensure that these programs are fielded successfully, and as quickly, as possible to mitigate any potential gaps in satellite coverage.”

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