Language caps AWIPS spending

Congress has placed a cap of $525 million on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) and recommended that the Commerce Department delay a decision to deploy the system nationwide until it conducts more operational testing.

In conference report language accompanying the appropriations bill passed by Congress last week conferees "put NOAA on notice that additional resources will not be available should NOAA fail to deliver the system within the current $525 million cost estimate." AWIPS was originally slated to cost $350 million.

AWIPS the cornerstone of the National Weather Service's $4.5 billion modernization effort will integrate and display weather data collected from sensors satellites and radars. It has been criticized in the past for being over budget and off schedule.

Congress has appropriated around $261 million for AWIPS to date. This means NOAA will have about $263 million to complete development acquisition and deployment of AWIPS.

"We're looking carefully at how the cost cap [impacts] us " said Mary Glackin modernization systems manager at the NWS. "We're looking at our plans to see if there are ways we can cut [costs].

The AWIPS program received $100 million for fiscal 1997 about $19 million less than the administration's request but $50 million more than last year's level.

"With $100 million for this fiscal year we could deploy 20 fewer systems than previously planned for " Glackin said. The NWS plans to deploy a total of 147 systems including 21 in fiscal 1997.

"I don't feel the funding level will have an impact on the development of AWIPS " said Doug McVicar program manager for AWIPS at Litton/PRC.

The report also recommended that the NWS delay the final production decision for full-scale deployment until additional operational testing is completed. A decision on nationwide deployment of AWIPS is expected this month.

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