GAO Fears Gaps in Weather Satellite Data As Early As 2014, Adds to High Risk List

GAO Fears Gaps in Weather Satellite Data As Early As 2014, Adds to High Risk List

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest High Risk List today, adding mitigating gaps in weather satellite data to its biennial identification of areas of government operations that are most vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse or mismanagement or in need of broad-based transformation.

Weather satellite data gaps is one of two new areas this year.  The other is limiting the federal government’s fiscal exposure by better managing climate change risks.

Weather satellites and climate change are two of the 30 High Risk areas listed in the new report.  The other 28 have been on the list for varying periods of time, including NASA Acquisition Management, which first appeared in 1990.   

Mitigating gaps in weather satellite data was added this year because GAO is concerned that potential gaps could occur “as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months.”   The potential gap in NOAA’s weather satellite program in the 2016-2017 timeframe between existing satellites and the launch of the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft has been studied and discussed at length, but the new GAO report also highlights its June 2012 finding that DOD might experience a gap of its own beginning in 2014.  GAO worries that the two Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites awaiting launch may not perform as planned since they were built long ago (in the 1990s).  “If the satellites do not perform as expected, a data gap in the early morning orbit could occur as early as 2014,” GAO asserts.

As for climate change, GAO stresses that the federal government owns a lot of infrastructure, insures property from flood damage, and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters and needs a “government-wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks” associated with climate change.





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