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House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment Discusses NOAA Satellite Systems

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2016

Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing titled, “Examining the Nation’s Current and Next Generation Weather Satellite Programs.” The purpose of this hearing was to examine the current status of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather satellite programs and its long-term plans for the next generation of polar and geo-stationary satellite systems.

NOAA operates two complementary weather satellite programs, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites (GOES). Satellites in both suites are acquired and managed by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services (NESDIS) in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee, Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), said in her opening statement, “The data collected by NOAA’s weather satellites are the backbone of NOAA’s weather prediction capabilities and support weather forecasting activities around the globe.

“NOAA, in coordination with its interagency and international partners, is working diligently to move the national weather satellite system into a robust state so we will have certainty and continuity of accurate and reliable forecasts and severe storm warnings. In addition to providing uninterrupted weather observations in the near term, NOAA is actively assessing what new capabilities will be required, beyond the 2020s, to protect American lives and property during extreme weather events…It is critical that these programs remain on schedule to minimize the potential risk to the collection of observations and data that are needed for NOAA’s weather forecasting activities…[T]he planned launches of both the GOES-R and JPSS-1 satellites should not mark the conclusion of NOAA’s programmatic efforts, but rather should be the figurative launching pad of the planning and development of our next generation of weather satellites.”

Democratic Members discussed the operation and status of NOAA”s on-orbit polar and geostationary systems and estimates of their ability to function until new systems are launched within the next year; the importance of international partnerships and NOAA’s role in leading U.S. efforts in such partnerships; and the need for effective communication and coordination between NOAA and the Department of Defense on weather satellite systems planning. Members also discussed NOAA’s plans for follow-on satellite systems and its progress on initiating steps in their commercial weather data pilot.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement, “NOAA’s weather satellite programs play a critical role in ensuring the continued health of our weather forecasting capabilities, and they support weather forecasting activities around the globe. Although both JPSS and GOES-R have experienced significant cost growth, and management and technical challenges during their development, I am pleased to learn that NOAA has responded to recommendations from GAO and others, and that we expect to have both satellites launched within the year.” She continued, “However, as we will hear today, there is still more work to be done. Concerns about a potential gap in our satellite coverage must be addressed, and NOAA must apply lessons learned to ensure future programs do not face identical challenges. As I have said before, we must take all necessary steps to ensure there is not a gap in satellite coverage in support of our weather forecasting capabilities.”

Witnesses:

Dr. Stephen Volz, Assistant Administrator, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Mr. David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office

Mr. Ralph Stoffler, Director of Weather, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, U.S. Air Force

Ms. Cristina Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office


Please visit our website: http://democrats.science.house.gov

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