GAO Report Criticizes NOAA’s Management of GOES-R Program

[Satellite TODAY Insider 06-29-12] The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) program is at risk of running over its projected cost and schedule estimates, according to a report published June 28 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES-R program aims to replace aging weather satellites with four new satellites. Though the NOAA issued a cost and schedule forecast in January claiming a 48 percent confidence level that the program will meet its current launch date of October 2015, the GOES-R preliminary design review was delayed by 18 months due to technical issues with its instruments and spacecraft, as well as modifications to the ground segment. The review was originally projected to finish in August 2012.
   In its report, the GAO urged program officials to insist that the GOES-R program meets the launch date without further adjustments to schedules. The agency also said NOAA should be able to rely on the approximate $1.2 billion in reserve funding to regain lost ground and growing costs, which it calls a “well-defined risk management process” that NOAA has yet to implement.
   “Significant portions of development remain for major components and it’s unclear what future expenses may arise,” the GAO said in its report. “Until all defined risk management practices are diligently executed and critical risks adequately mitigated, the GOES-R program is at risk of exceeding cost and schedule targets, and launch dates could slip. The agency should assess the reserves it will likely need through the entire life of the program, draft a more reliable schedule, and identify risks to the program.”
   The NOAA agreed with the GAO’s overall recommendations to assess and report on the needed reserves, claiming that it will address the shortfalls that the GAO identified in managing and improving the accuracy of the program’s integrated master schedule.
   But the NOAA also disagreed with the GAO’s risk management assessments of the program on the grounds that it has fully implemented its risk management program.
“Some of the concerns that were outlined are not true risks and thus, they were not included in our risk database,” the NOAA said in a response statement.

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