NOAA’s low hanging problem–Part 6

You learned from the previous post the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration invited the Independent Review Team (IRT) to find issues in their satellite programs, like the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which were causing program slowdowns and costing more money.

The IRT found five different concerns:  Oversight and decision process, governance, JPSS Gap, programs, and budget.  They elaborated on each one of these concerns which you can read about in their 2012 assessment report.  The gap-filler solution to the JPSS Gap concern was the instigator of this series of posts.  Oversight and decision process, what that possibly meant and its affects, were also discussed in part 5 of this series.  Governance, the second concern, helps to define what roles different agencies, such as NASA and NOAA, and their subordinate organization play in the program.

Structured approach

Governance structure and definition are normally summarized in an organizational chart.  The IRT showed off two different governance models on page 16 of the 2012 IRT assessment.  The models are shown below.

Click on chart to go to 2012 IRT Assessment Report

The JPSS model is obviously very different from the GOES-R model.  More complicated.  More fingers in the pie.  At a guess, the JPSS governance model probably caused all sorts of tension related to who’s responsible for what, etc. (including affecting the oversight and decision process).  And that’s the IRT’s point.  The report urges the NOAA to adopt a simpler, more successful model—kind of like GOES-R’s.  It’s amazing organizations even think governance models like the one on the right are the way to do business.


The other IRT concern, Programs, is just a summary of the two different NOAA satellite programs, GOES-R and JPSS, which seems odd.  The IRT likes what the GOES-R program is doing, but the JPSS program has “a significant number of high-level issues” (page 24, 2012 IRT assessment).  It seems like Programs should be at the front of the report.

Budget buffoonery

Then there’s Budget.  A lot of things come down to money, and even the government has to have a budget for its programs.  For JPSS, the program requiring the gap-filler, there’s all sorts of issues the IRT has found:  two years of being underfunded slowed the program down (duh!); program requirements (the list of program “needs” a government determines for a program) are quite critical in the budget equation; JPSS requirements were based on an older program’s requirements (but were never analyzed for validity); there is no Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) of the JPSS program (independent estimates help to give a non-partisan look at costs and such, like the IRT, in theory); and–this is an incredible admission–the IRT just doesn’t understand why JPSS (and GOES-R) costs as much as it does.

These five concerns were the ones the IRT highlighted about the NOAA’s satellite programs.  Were they addressed?  What do you think?  If you’ve been following, you probably already know the answer, but that’s for my next post. 

One thought on “NOAA’s low hanging problem–Part 6

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