Defense Weather Satellites: Analysis of Alternatives is Useful for Certain Capabilities, but Ineffective Coordination Limited Assessment of Two Critical Capabilities
U.S. Government Accountability Office Washington United States
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The Department of Defense DOD uses data from military, U.S. civil government, and international partner satellite sensors to provide critical weather information and forecasts for military operations. As DODs primary existing weather satellite systemthe Defense Meteorological Satellite Program DMSPages and other satellites near their estimated end of life, DOD faces potential gaps in its space-based environmental monitoring SBEM capabilities which may affect stakeholders that use SBEM data, including the military services, the intelligence community, and U.S. civil agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA. After two unsuccessful attempts to develop follow-on programs from 1997 through fiscal year 2012, including the National Polar-orbiting Operational Satellite System NPOESS, a tri-agency program between DOD, NOAA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that was canceled in 2010 because of extensive cost overruns and schedule delays, DOD and other stakeholders who rely on SBEM data are now in a precarious position in which key capabilities require immediate and near-term solutions.1 With potential capability gaps starting as early as this year, it is important for DOD to make decisions in a timely manner, but based on informed analysis that considers stakeholder input.