HSS&T Hearing on NOAA's Polar Weather Satellite Program

HSS&T Hearing on NOAA's Polar Weather Satellite Program

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee not only will look into NASA’s human spaceflight program next week, but will also get an update on the polar orbiting weather satellite program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA hearing will be on Friday, September 23, at 10:00 am. The witnesses have not been announced yet, but the topic is “From NPOESS to JPSS: An Update on the Nation’s Restructured Polar Weather Satellite Program.”

NOAA has been struggling to obtain the requisite funding for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) since it was announced in February 2010. At that time, the Obama Administration abandoned efforts to build a single weather satellite system serving both the civil and military communities — the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) — because of poor program management that resulted in cost increases and schedule delays. Historically, the Department of Defense (DOD) and NOAA had separate systems and now they will again. The program restructuring makes NOAA responsible for a new civil system that will cost the agency much more than its contribution to NPOESS. The requested significant increase in NOAA’s budget came at just the wrong time as Washington policymakers decided that the top priority is cutting the deficit.

NOAA witnesses have testified to Congress several times already warning that if the agency is not given sufficient funds, there could be a data gap of as long as 18 months when there is no U.S. civil polar orbiting weather satellites, which will reduce the accuracy of forecasts. The House Appropriations Committee cut the FY2012 request for JPSS by $168 million. The Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NOAA will markup its version of the bill this Wednesday.

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