Chairwoman Mikulski Demands More Frugal and Efficient Satellite Procurement

Spending bill transfers operational satellite acquisition from NOAA to NASA

April 17, 2012

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman on the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced the fiscal year 2013 CJS spending bill transfers funding and responsibility for procuring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) operational satellites to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).   

"The Nation needs weather satellites to predict hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms so forecasters can warn citizens and save lives." Chairwoman Mikulski said. "It doesn't matter what agency buys the satellites. It matters that the procurement is managed frugally and gets us data and information we need. Unfortunately, the Committee has lost confidence in NOAA's ability to control procurement costs or articulate reliable funding profiles. Therefore, we have taken the unprecedented step of transferring responsibility for building our Nation's operational weather satellites from NOAA to NASA."  

Under the current arrangement, NASA acts as NOAA's agent for procurement of four operational satellites: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOvr), and Altimetry Mission (Jason-3). Funding for these satellites, totaling $1.6 billion, is provided in a new NASA Operational Satellite Acquisition account. The move eliminates duplicative management resulting in $117 million in savings in fiscal year 2013 alone. The move leverages NASA's expertise in building Earth science satellites and managing satellite procurements. When the satellites are launched and operational, NOAA will operate the satellites, collect and archive the data, and use the data to improve forecasts. NASA will purchase, not operate, the satellites.    

"The cost for JPSS has grown by $1 billion over the past year. This is outrageous. We must do better," continued Chairwoman Mikulski. "While NASA missions have also experienced cost overruns and schedule slippages, NASA has been more responsive and competent in correcting these deficiencies. The bill seeks to stop the hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars by instituting a new management structure for NOAA's operational satellites."  

The CJS Subcommittee approved the fiscal year 2013 CJS Appropriations bill today. In the next step of the appropriations process, the bill will be considered by the Full Appropriations Committee.