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The Evolution of NOAA's Observing System Investment Assessment Process

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Monday, 24 January 2011
The Evolution of NOAA's Observing System Investment Assessment Process
Eric J. Miller, NOAA/NESDIS, Silver Spring, MD; and M. Yapur, N. Wyse, R. Reining, and L. McCulloch

Why should NOAA be concerned with an observing system investment assessment process in the first place? Start with the fact that approximately 50% of NOAA's annual budget is spent on developing, acquiring, deploying, and maintaining operational and research environmental observing systems. Then consider that NOAA has a diverse mission and must make decisions about the best way to satisfy numerous and often competing requirements in a fiscally constrained environment. NOAA leadership requires information to help them assess the importance of observing systems and understand the value each brings to NOAA's mission and users. Since 2005, NOAA's Technology, Planning, and Integration Office (TPIO) has been developing, implementing, and improving a methodology to evaluate proposed observing system investments and provides this information to NOAA leadership. NOAA and the federal government are undergoing significant changes. Key initiatives like the emergence of a NOAA Climate Service, and a refocus on science have brought about a culture change to this multifaceted organization. Major environmental events (e.g. major oil spills) also influence agency policy, priorities, and direction. Finally, consider the development of the Next Generation Strategic Plan and a new way of conducting business processes in NOAA, and it's easy to understand why this is the time to reevaluate and adjust current methodologies (like observing system investment assessment). The TPIO investment analysis methodology has been used in two primary outcomes to date: 1) development of a portfolio optimization routine; and 2) an annual prioritization of observing systems alternatives. The methodology is now being applied in an increasing number of ways; for example, employed to support development of recapitalization plans (satellites, fleet, aircraft and buoy) and for input to the analysis of alternatives (AoA) of specific observing systems or measurements. The information, tools, and processes used to assess observing system investments includes: NOAA's Observing System Architecture (NOSA) database; NOAA's Consolidated Observing Requirements (CORL) database; the NOAA requirements verification/validation process; Requirements Gap Assessment (RGA) algorithm; value chain development (requirements prioritization) process; and utility, risk, and cost assessments. To help move this analysis process forward, in light of, each of the organizational and functional changes underway in the agency, TPIO enlisted the help of two external study teams to review its process from top to bottom. These two teams have completed their studies and produced reports with a thorough assessment of the process, including rigorous stakeholder query and developed specific recommendations to strengthen and adapt the current process to better serve NOAA. This poster will cover the details about how TPIO is working to apply the results from the independent reviews of the process and the next steps will be provided in the associated poster session. An associated presentation will cover a high-level overview of the TPIO observing system assessment process, the tools and information used to provide information to NOAA Leadership, and the current drivers for change.