Ever since he became chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Oklahoma congressman Frank Lucas has become involved in a long list of topics ranging from weather data, to withheld energy information at the White House.
This week, he and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruze sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) next-generation geostationary satellite program, Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO).
Cruz is the Senate Transportation Committee’s Ranking Member.
GeoXO is NOAA’s largest procurement ever with a projected lifecycle cost of $19.6 billion and a planned development period that will span over a decade. The critical data gained from GeoXO will improve weather forecast models and drive short-term forecasts and severe weather warnings. The program will also contribute to the detection and monitoring of environmental hazards.
Given the complexity and cost of GeoXO, Lucas and Cruz are concerned that the program could encounter the same problems as its predecessor, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series (GOES-R). GOES-R was significantly less expensive than GeoXO, with a $10.9 billion acquisition. Over the years, GAO has reported on issues NOAA has had developing and operating GOES-R, including problems in managing cost, schedule, and risks.
“Although NOAA made progress towards overcoming these challenges, the GOES-R program experienced delays in meeting major program milestones (including launch delays), expansions in cost, and changes in scope, all of which impacted the functionality of the program and introduced the potential to leave gaps in critical weather surveillance,” Lucas and Cruz wrote.
“The delays and budget overruns in the GOES-R program make it all the more important to ensure that GeoXO is well-managed, as any problems will be magnified by the greater complexity and cost of GeoXO.”
Given the previous challenges with GOES-R and the similarities in the two programs, Lucas and Cruz request GAO review the GeoXO program’s ability to manage cost, schedule, and risks, to ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars as GeoXO is successfully developed and operated.
Read the full letter here.