Who's Holding the Bag for Sats?

The House Appropriations Committee eliminated the requirement that the Defense Department fund half the cost of the new National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) in its version of the Commerce Department's <a href=http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_reports&docid=f:hr149.111.pdf>fiscal 2010 appropriations bill</a> passed on June 25.

The House Appropriations Committee eliminated the requirement that the Defense Department fund half the cost of the new National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) in its version of the Commerce Department's fiscal 2010 appropriations bill passed on June 25.

Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have struggled to develop NPOESS, which is intended to provide higher resolution weather imagery to both civilian and military users, since 1994. The project has had multiple delays and huge cost overruns in the $1 billion to $2 billion range, the committee said in its report.

These schedule slips and cost increases resulted from the "dysfunctional tri-agency management approach" for NPOESS, which the committee indicated may end, because it "anticipates a change in management structure to be announced by the administration soon."

Take this language and dovetail with the language in the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill, in which the House Armed Services Committee suggested that Defense and NOAA develop their own weather satellite systems, and it now looks like NOAA may have pay the whole NPOESS tab.

NOAA asked for $382.2 million in finding for NPOESS for fiscal 2010, while the Air Force budgeted $396.6 million for the weather satellite system next year.

Does this mean that NOAA now has to come up with an extra $396.6 million for NPOESS? That may be a rounding error for Defense, but not for NOAA.