The Pentagon’s head of acquisition signed an Acquisition Decision Memorandum last week telling the Air Force to plow ahead and develop plans for a new weather satellite, one replacing the ill-fated NPOESS program.
Ironically, the requirements for the new satellite — to be known as the Defense Weather Satellite — are the same as they were for NPOESS, according to a congressional aide. This means that the main difference from NPOESS will be that there will a Defense Department satellite containing sensors that meet the military’s requirements instead of a single satellite that meets the requirements of DoD, as well as its former NPOESS partners, NOAA and NASA.
As we reported in May, Ash Carter knew he needed something to do the job, but he wasn’t yet sure just what it should be. This new ADM tells the Air Force to go out and figure how many satellites will be needed and just what sensors should be installed. And it provides some direction on what is needed to do that.
The House Armed Services Committee voted to cut $300 million from the NPOESS program, leaving a token $25 million in the kitty. That worried Carter because he wants to make sure the Air Force has the money it needs so it can build whatever it decides it needs. We don’t know what the HAC-D did yet because its report has not been released, or leaked.
The final NPOESS divorce between the Pentagon, NASA and NOAA was ordered by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy after they concluded that the memorandum of understanding signed by the three government agencies would never be properly enforced. NPOESS has long been a model for how not to manage a satellite program, but government officials worried that killing NPOESS might leave the Defense Department without critically important weather information. So they just kept pushing the program along. No more. Let’s see if Northrop Grumman, NPOESS’s builder, will win this contract.