tv [untitled] June 27, 2012 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
and the program will be a clone of the mpp bus, all indications of a mature program. to quote, the gao report not having a baseline, quote, makes it more difficult for program officials to make informed decisions and for program overseers to understand if the program is on track to successfully deliver expected functionality on cost and schedule, end quote. i understand that noaa has committed to developing the program on the life cycle cost cap of $12.9 million, but with an impeding gap in coverage that limits schedule flexibility. the only option they have to manage program risk is to diminish capability and i'm also concerned that this $12.9 billion cap is $1.7 billion lower than the independent cost estimate conducted last year.
i look forward to seeing how noaa is going to cover that shortfall. the and i know it decides to cover the shortfall in future challenges. and since last fall, the program has grown to $1 billion as a result of extending the program by four years. the addition of free flyers, contract transitions and a work slowdown because of the 2011 budget. also, the schedule has slipped approximately three months. one of the most concerning findings from the geo report on jpss pertains not to cost increases or schedule gaps in noaa's afternoon orbit, but to the effect of the entire orbiting constellation. they point out that because of uncertainties in dod's early-morning orbit as well as the european's mid orbit, there is a gap in data, not just noaa's. after the 2010 decision to split up the program, noaa was only given responsibility for the afternoon orbit, but it is clear that the parties need to coordinate to identify synergies
and to mitigate risks in the entire constellation. gozar on the other hand, seems to be making progress to delivering its spacecraft within cost and schedule. this wasn't always the case as the program was significantly descoped in 2007 in order to prevent cost growth and schedule slips. still, there are some findings in the gao report that require monitoring such as the rate at which the program is burning through reserves and the fidelity of its schedules. most concerning, however, is the gao finding that there is only a 48% chance that the program will meet its 2015 launch date, and that there is a 37% chance that there will be a gap in the availability of two operational ghost series satellites. a gap in one program is bad enough. a gap in both programs would and
could be -- would and would be catastrophic. i would be remiss if i did not at least mention the senate appropriations proposal to transfer the weather satellite programs from noaa to nasa. i hope noaa and nasa can provide their thoughts on this proposal specifically how it would impact the current programs as well as the rest of their agencies. i know these oversight hearings can sometimes be tough, but considering noaa's current position, the house may be one of the agency's few friends and maybe the last friend. i hope not. the administration has proposed moving noaa into the department of the interior, and the senate has proposed gutting the satellite program from noaa, effectively removing $2 billion of noaa's $5 billion budget. it is typically forthcoming with information. unfortunately, this was not the case with questions the committee posed to noaa last fall after the last hearing.
although we sent questions on october 17, we did not receive a response until june 7th, eight months later. i certainly hope noaa will be more responsive to the questions that we'll have after this hearing. now, i recognize mr. tonko, by good friend from new york. >> thank you. and thank you to our witnesses. this committee has been holding hearings to ask critical questions of these satellite programs since at least 2003. we have seen cycles of disaster as when we witnessed the jpss in its prior imposed skies double in costs before the entire enterprise was redesigned and rebaselined. we have witnessed herculean efforts to restructure acquisition plans, to get problems under control. frankly, despite these efforts, we have not had much to cheer about with jpss, and even gozar has been a source of concern.
however, my sense is that both of these programs are on sustainable paths. that said, it appears an auditor at gao could build a pretty good 20-year career out of simply tracking the weather satellite program, and that is a sorry state of affairs. the group that sits before us today is not responsible for the mess. rather we are counting on them to get us out of a mess they inherited. it is our job to probe the answers they offer, assess whether the programs appear robust, and offer whatever advice and support we can to get these satellites launched and operating. believe me, if we could have halted these acquisitions, we could have -- would have, but these satellites and the instruments that are to fly on them are too important to our nation to abandon this program. i want to come away from this hearing with an understanding
that there is solid planning going on to fill any data gaps. i want a firmer grasp of where remaining risks lie in each of these programs. and i want to know there are reasonable strategies for dealing with those risks. in short, i want to leave with confidence that the management teams running the jpss and goes-r satellite programs are indeed up to the challenges. in closing, mr. chair, i want to express my hope that we not leap to conclusions, either good or bad about either of these programs. we should be cautious about these programs, but it appears that nothing staff learned in preparing for this hearing and nothing in gao's testimony lead us to condemn either program or to conclude that things are off the tracks again. i thank our witnesses for being here today and sharing information and providing the sort of in-depth discussion that
is absolutely required. and i look forward to their testimony today. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. tonko. i appreciate that. and i agree with you. i'm not sure if we're off track. i sure hope not. and i think we -- this is one of the most bipartisan committees in this very bipartisan overall full committee. and i appreciate that. we just want to get some information. i think both sides want to do just the same. and just as we're going to do with a question and answer period, we'll recognize not only the chairs and ranking members of both subcommittees before we go to the rest of the members of the committees. as i mentioned earlier, we'll now recognize dr. andy harris from maryland for his statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good afternoon. i'd like to thank the witnesses for joining us to discuss noaa's
environmental satellite issues. this is the second hearing we've had on noaa satellites in this congress alone, and i understand this committee has had many more over the past several congresses. with this much oversight, we would typically hope to see some improvement, and in some areas we have. however, with every step forward, it seems we're taking two steps back. the launch of the npp satellite last october was certainly an achievement, and noaa and nasa are to be applauded for the successful launch. but the satellite was five years late, and some of the instruments are not working as well as they should be. the contracts for the joint polar satellite system, jpss, have finally been transferred from its predecessor program, and nasa and noaa are making progress. but the threat of data gap remains, and the cost of the program is increased by $1 billion, squeezing funds available for important ground and air-based weather systems. the geostationary operational environmental satellite, or goes program moves along, but noaa is burning through its funding reserves quicker than anticipated, and risk has still
not been reduced. today we'll be told there is a possibility after goes gap right around the same time as the possibility of ooh jpss gap. as we learned in an energy and environment subcommittee months ago, weather prediction models by the national weather service comes from satellite data. the thought of a gap is troubling enough in itself, but the possibility of a concurrent gap in goes coverage represents a truly scary scenario that significantly threatens u.s. lives and property. given these difficulties, perhaps it's time for us to seek a new paradigm for procuring data for weather forecasting. the current procurement process may simply not be working, and time is running out. but to date there appears little interest in pursuing alternative solutions. while there are no easy answers to this dilemma, and the choices we make will require significant effort and evaluation, we must accept the status quo cannot continue. again, i thank the witnesses for being here with us today. i look forward to an informative discussion, and i yield back the balance of my time.
>> thank you, dr. harris. the chair now recognizes my good friend from north carolina, mr. miller. for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman brown. i want to thank both chairs of the subcommittees for holding the hearing today on two satellite programs, jpss and goes-r that have unfortunately been a central part of this committee's oversight responsibility for years. i say unfortunately because attention of oversight does not gravitate to programs that are running smoothly. it gravitates to programs that are a problem, and these programs have been a problem. but they need to work, though seldom the headline grabber, it is hard to overstate the importance of satellite programs for the lives of americans. the daily life. satellite-based weather and climate forecasts tell us whether to carry an umbrella on any given day, where to fly planes, what crops to plant,
whether to run our power plants, how to plan military missions, when to take cover from deadly storms. when they work, when we get timely and accurate information we are safer and more prosperous. but when satellite programs falter, we find that lives, property, infrastructure and our economic health are at risk. during my tenure as chairman of the investigation oversight subcommittee of the science committee, we kept a very close eye on these two programs, particularly the joint polar satellite system, or jpss, recognizing that poor management and wasteful spending put more than federal jobs and money at stake. until recently, we have been profoundly disappointed, and even now the data gap that threatens our forecasting capabilities is just inexcusable. but today i am cautiously optimistic that we are final lion the right path, that the
administration has put into the -- the work the administration has put into reorganizing and rescoping jpss has put that program on a new path to mission success. time will tell, but until then, until time does tell us, we will focus on the real and viable options we will need to use in order to get us through a difficult period. at the same time, we have to keep a watchful eye on noaa's progress on the geostationary operational environmental satellite system, r series, or goes-r. from their stations above the equator, the goes satellite tracks weather across the western hemisphere. while the goes program has not suffered from the same mismanagement and mistakes that have plagued the polar satellite program, we have seen the preliminary cost estimate for these satellites double, and as a result, noaa has found it necessary to cut in half the number of satellites that
they've ordered. even so, we remain cautious. and to ensure that this program remains within the budget and on schedule. and i don't claim to know how much a weather satellite should cost. i don't in my normal life buy satellites. as with jpss, we need to take a hard look at the necessary funding levels and reserves required to keep overall costs down and the project online. i look forward to hearing our witnesses from gao, again, noaa, and nasa to discuss how these relevant agencies can keep these programs on track and in the process fulfill the promise of keeping americans safer and our economy more efficient and productive. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you very much, mr. miller. i thought you went out and bought satellites every week or so. >> that was just bread and milk. >> okay.
i just was confused i guess. at this time i would like to introduce our first panel of witnesses. the first witness is the honorable kathryn sullivan, dr. sullivan, hd. the assistant secretary of commerce for environmentalal observation and prediction and the deputy administration at noaa. our second witness is mr. marcus watkins, the director of the joint agency satellite division at nasa. our final witness is mr. david a. powner, the director of information technology management issues for the gao. and i thank you all for being here. as our witnesses should know, spoken testimony is limited to five minutes each, after which members of the committee have five minutes each to ask questions. your written testimony would be included in the record of the hearing. because of the importance and the complexity of the issues before us today, i will allow you to go over five minutes if you need to, if you can, make it
within five minutes, please do so. i'm very proud memphis colleagues for keeping theirs under five minutes. i was slightly over, i think. is the practices of the subcommittee on investigations and oversight to receive testimony under oath. and we will use that practice today as well. do any of you have an objection to taking an oath? okay. let the record reflect that the witnesses were all willing to take the oath by saying no and shaking their head from side to side, indicating such also. you also may be represented by counsel. do any of you have counsel here today? all three again indicated shaking their head and saying no. so let the record reflects such, that the witnesses do not have counsel. now if you would please stand and raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear or affirm to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help
you god? you may be seated. let the record reflect that all the witnesses have taken the oath. i now recognize our first witness, dr. kathryn sullivan of the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. dr. sullivan, you have five minutes. thank you, ma'am. >> thank you. chairman brown and harris and members of the subcommittees. you have my written statement. it gives me much more detail. i would like this afternoon just to highlight a few key points. first, significant progress has been made in both the goes-r and the jpss programs. goes-r remains on schedule for launch in the first quarter of fiscal 2016. the joint team has a history of working extremely well together and effectively. this has led to the completion of keystone mile programs and substantial demonstrable progress towards that launch date. for jpss, substantial progress has also been made since i last testified before this committee. most notably as cited, the
successful launch of the suminpp satellite. while there is more work that needs to be done, jpss has come a long way. second, noaa's priority is to maintain and improve the accuracy and reliability of the life and property saving weather forecasts, watches and warnings that our nation depends upon. to do this we must maintain schedule and costs so that each satellite is ready for launch as close to the end of its predecessor's life as possible, ideally before. meeting this priority requires established and stable requirements, strong effective management with rigorous independent checks and stable funding. we have achieved the stable requirements. we're committed to strong effective management. we have independent checks in place, and we're working hand in hand with this committee to assure the funding remains as stable as possible in this challenging fiscal environment. nobody cares about the products these satellites provide and the services they support more than noaa. they're essential to our own
mission performance and important to a very long list of government, private sector, and academic customers. as every successful business owner knows, it's essential to understand your customer in order to assure that you're meeting their needs. noaa is the critical link between operational satellite observation and our users, and continuity of service is the most important thing we can do. i'd like to just illustrate briefly if i may some of the progress that the systems we're bringing online will support. one of our goes satellites is currently watching tropical depression debby, monitoring her every move and helping our forecasters predict where she will go next so they in turn can help emergency managers prepare. i've brought some images along and staff will provide them in hardcopy from relevant current events that demonstrates some of sumi-npp is already providing to our managing partners. this is specifically some images from the visible infrared. we have one that shows fires that are currently active in
colorado and wyoming and demonstrates the capability to not only see temperatures associated with wildfires far more intense than we could do before, but also locate them more accurately on the ground to aid responders. we also have some images of hurricane debby, or tropical storm debby that showed the sort of detail on storm intensity that, again, the higher resolution and greater bands in the veers imagery will provide. turning now to some highlights of the progress in each of the programs. the goes-r series program is on schedule and on budget for launching its first satellite in the first quarter of fiscal '16. over the last year, some of the notable milestones achieved include successful completion of the mission preliminary design review, passage of the key decision point approval to move towards mission critical design, successful completion of the instrument spacecraft and core ground segment critical design reviews, good progress on the construction of the ground antenna, and our command and data acquisition sites, the selection of a launch service
provider which was completed this last april. goes-r remains within a solid life cycle cost and we're committed to maintaining that $10.8 billion figure. this includes development, launch, operations, and sustainment for four goes series spacecraft rst and u, plus the instruments and running them through 2036, as well as the development of the ground system and procurement of the launch. last year when i appeared before you to discuss the jpss program, we were still in the formulation phase. the transition from n-pose i believe is now behind us. we have the proper management in place and the teams are working well together. again, major milestones have been achieved this past year with the launch and successful operations of sumi-npp have been neated. we are already using sumi-npp data today, at launch three times faster than has been achieved before. we believe a sound program estimate for life cycle cost and
independent reviews, independent review teams in place, and we are proceeding towards the first key decision point in july of next year. this is the point in which according to formal nasa practice we will have a full detailed baseline for you. i am confident the cost and schedule presented in the president's fy-'13 budget are sound and they will support a successful program. this $12.9 billion figure retains the same instrument suite as was outlined in the february 2010 restructure decision. it includes over $4.3 billion in sunk costs that covered noaa's contributions to npp and the development of the instruments and ground systems, and the remaining will fund instruments to support two jpss spacecraft, free flyer accommodations for instruments that cannot fit on that footprint, launch vehicles and the development of an updated ground system and sustainment in operations through 2028. as gao points out, and you all have noted, despite this
progress, we still face a gap in coverage. we agree with the gao's recommendation to formally document our long held and well defined practices of using all available assets that can help mitigate such a gap, and being ready to ingest the data from these sources. our prime strategy remains to leverage any remaining capabilities of existing on orbit assets from noaa, and to use our partnerships with international nations. finally, i would like to thank your committees for their continued interest and support of noaa satellite programs. with nasa as our acquisition agent and partner in these programs, we are on track and headed for success. we have strong and seasoned managers at the helm. they're support bade dedicated and talented team of technical professionals. we've reaffirmed our international partnerships for the jpss program, and all parties are moving forward to meet their commitments. we take our life and property protecting mission very, very seriously. our commitment to you to ensure that the progress we've seen in this past year continues, that
these programs stay on schedule and on budget to deliver for our nation is rooted in our commitment to noaa's mission for the country. thank you for the opportunity to testify for you here today. i look forward to our discussion. and i appreciate the extra time, mr. chairman. >> thank you, dr. sullivan. appreciate your testimony. now i recognize our next witness, mr. marcus watkins of nasa. mr. watkins, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to share information regarding the nasa role in and commitment to noaa's joint polar satellite system and noaa's geostationary operational environmental satellite r series program. jpss -- >> could you pull your microphone slightly closer? >> is that better, sir? okay. jpss and goes-r are critical to the weather's nation forecasting system, climate monitoring and research activities. nasa and noaa have been partners
for over 40 years in developing the nation's pollard and geo synchronous weather satellites. with the president's direction in 2010, nasa and noaa returned to the successful partnership for jpss. since that time, the nasa program management office was established and is nearly fully staffed. in addition, noaa and nasa have established joint councils to oversee the portfolio of satellites and have integrated their decision-making processes to efficiently and effectively manage this cooperative activity. over the last two years, the nasa and noaa teams have strengthened their working relationship. i am pleased to report that the nasa/noaa team completed a development of npp and it was successfully launched on october 28th, 2011. activation and initial checkout are now complete, and the jpss program has assumed operational control of the satellite now renamed the sumi national polar orbiting partnership. while it was not intended to be
used as an operational asset, know washington will be using npp data in its weather forecasting models. as a measure of how well the mission is progressing, noaa meteorologists are already using data progresses from atms instrument in their weather forecast and we're getting excellent performance from the veers instrument as well. nasa now controls the instrument, spacecraft and ground system contracts. the first jpss satellite, jpss-1, will essentially be a copy of sumi npp with upgrades to meet the jpss level 1 requirements. assuming full funding of the president's fy-2013 budget for noaa is anticipated, the jpss-1 will be ready to launch before the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 2017, close to five years after the october launch of sumi npp. in addition, the goes-r series
program of four synchronous satellites continues to make progress towards launching goes-r, the first satellite of the series. in the first quarter of fy-2016. again, assuming full funding of the president's budget, the program completing its preliminary design review face and conducted a successful critical design review for the spacecraft and awarded launch vehicle task orders to united launch services for the goes-r and goes-s missions which will be launched on atlas 541 series vehicles. additionally, all flight instruments critical design reviews are complete and all are in flight hardware, fabrication for tests. once again, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i appreciate the support of this committee and congress for support of these critical programs and would be pleased to answer any questions. >> thank you, mr. watkins. i appreciate your testimony.
now our final witness is mr. powner of the government accountability office. >> chairman brown, and members of the subcommittees, we appreciate the opportunity to testify this afternoon on the jpss and goes-r programs. starting with jpss, this nearly $13 billion acquisition is proceeding along with planned launch date of the first satellite by march 2017. this afternoon i would like to provide an overview of progress to date. the program's current cost estimate, key risks to the program, and potential gaps in data satellite continuity. starting with progress. npp, the planned demonstration satellite now used for operations was successfully launched in october 2011, and the instruments were commissioned by march 2012. noaa has made good progress transferring management contracting responsibilities from the old program, also solid development has occurred on all five sensors associated with the first satellite. specifically, all five are at
least 60% complete, and two are 85% complete. last september when i testified before you, the overall program cost was $11.9 billion. after recent reconciliations of various cost estimates, the program determined the new cost estimates should be about $14.6 billion, an increase of $2.7 billion from last year's hearing. in working with omb, noaa officials told us that they expect the program to be funded at roughly $900 million a year, but omb placed a life cycle cap on the program at $12.9 billion. therefore, the program faced a funding gap of $1.7 billion. in our report being released today highlights option noaa was considering to address this nearly $2 billion funding gap, which included removing certain sensors. to its credit, noaa has recently made some tough decisions to address this funding gap. at a high level, their plan is to take a more effective approach to the operations and
maintenance phase, and to fly three sensors on other satellites. this approach to a ride share arrangement with the three sensors clearly helps reduce program costs, but like most options has tradeoffs. 234 this case, schedule ricks as the launch dates are no longer in the hands of the jpss program. other risks to the program reside with the launch vehicle. no decision has yet been made on which launch vehicle will be used. finally, turning to potential gaps in satellite data. we continue to be concerned about the afternoon orbit and highlight a 17-month gap. if npp lasts five years and the jpss hits its march 2017 launch date. in our opinion, this is the best case scenario. if npp lasts less than five years and if jpss launch date slips, this gap could be greater. well also highlight continuity concerns for the first time regarding dod's early morning orbit and the european midmorning