Commerce makes progress on modernization

The Commerce Department received praise and criticism from the General Accounting Office for how it manages its major programs.

As part of its 2001 Performance and Accountability Series of reports, GAO recognized Commerce for making progress on the National Weather Service modernization program. Since 1995, GAO had placed that program on its high-risk list because it was over budget and behind schedule. But this year, GAO removed it from the list, saying that the NWS had "acted to implement" the many recommendations made to it over the years.

Nevertheless, GAO plans to monitor enhancements made under the modernization initiative, including software upgrades to the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, the centerpiece of the NWS modernization that combines radar, satellite and other weather data on one workstation.

Other challenges and risks Commerce faces, according to GAO, include:

Financial management. Commerce lacks a single integrated financial system. Many financial systems are unable to provide timely and reliable data. 2000 census. Although GAO took the 2000 census program off its high-risk list this year, Commerce still faces challenges as it prepares for the 2010 census. For instance, it must explore innovative options to make the next census cost-effective. Managing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fleet of ships. Many of the ships, used for research, mapping and charting, lack state-of-the-art technology and are expensive to maintain.

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