An independent review panel has concluded that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) oversight of its weather satellite programs is “dysfunctional,” leaving the execution of its GOES-R and Joint Polar Satellite System programs an “extremely challenging” proposition.

Part of the problem is that NOAA functional organizations, such as its CFO and CIO, are too involved in execution of the programs, “to adverse effect,” according to the Independent Review Team (IRT), which was chartered by NOAA and its National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (Nesdis).

“The sheer volume and detail of information required by all levels about the satellite projects is alarming,” says the report, which is dated July 20 but was publicly released Sept. 21. “Not only does the IRT believe that the volume of information is excessive, it is hard to understand how the status of the projects can be easily and efficiently assessed from such a mass of data.

“Additionally, the IRT found numerous reviews which appear to have an unnecessarily adversarial character rather than a supportive one that holds Nesdis to a high standard,” the report says. “While checks, balances and holding people accountable are important, it appears that the goal of mission/program success was at times forgotten.”

The panel finds NOAA’s decision-making process on satellite programs to be “neither effective or timely,” at all levels of the organization. “The cumbersome and inefficient decision process will at best make it extremely difficult to minimize the gap in weather data and will more likely increase the gap,” the report says, referring to the anticipated gap in climate data resulting from years of delay in replacing NOAA’s aging satellites. NOAA is scheduled to launch JPSS-1 in 2016.

The IRT is recommending that NOAA’s chain-of-command oversight be streamlined and focused upon reviewing top-level program information. Furthermore, functional organizations within NOAA should be limited to policy implementation, and removed from program decision-making and execution.

Nesdis, which is tasked with managing NOAA’s satellite efforts, needs to be beefed up with at least two or three experienced project management professionals, the report says. “It is of paramount importance that [the Commerce Department] and NOAA reaffirm Nesdis as the primary accountable organization with commensurate authority, responsibility and resources,” the report says.

Despite the problems, there is still hope. “While the IRT cannot overemphasize the importance of implementing the recommendations included in this report, the IRT believes all identified concerns are resolvable,” the report says.