Chance of Showers

The future of the Air Force’s weather mission is looking a bit murky. After Senate defense appropriators recommended killing the Defense Weather Satellite System, USAF Undersecretary Erin Conaton said Pentagon officials, along with Commerce Department and NASA partners, are exploring exactly what capability is needed. “We are looking at the message that Congress is sending us and also looking at the legitimate requirements,” she said during a speech Tuesday in Washington, D.C. She added, “I think you’ll see a continued commitment to the weather mission, but how we will go about it given the concerns around this [DWSS] program, we are still working our way through that.” DWSS is the weather-monitoring satellite design meant to replace existing Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft. The Senators zeroed out the Air Force’s $445 million request for DWSS development in their mark-up of the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2012 budget proposal. Instead, they provided $250 million for continued weather sensor development and requirements definition for a new program that is openly competed. (See also Blinded by Capability Gaps from the Daily Report archives.) (See also the Senate Appropriations Committee’s report.)