WASHINGTON — As the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Air Force await direction from the White House on possible changes to a troubled civil-military weather satellite effort, the program’s top official announced he will resign Jan. 8.
Dan Stockton, program executive officer for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), informed NOAA, NASA and Defense Department leadership that he will step down to take a job in the private sector, according to a Dec. 24 e-mail sent to colleagues that was obtained by Space News. NOAA spokesman John Leslie confirmed Stockton’s resignation.
Stockton has been the program’s top official since 2007, when he replaced Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Mashiko after serving as her deputy. Mashiko has since been promoted to major general and assigned to other duties. The NPOESS program executive officer position was created as part of an NPOESS restructuring in 2006 that was prompted by cost growth and delays that were attributed in part to management issues.
The NPOESS program is jointly managed by NOAA and the Defense Department with NASA acting as a junior partner. An independent review panel concluded last spring that the program remains hobbled by an ineffective management structure and needs a near-term infusion of cash to succeed.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy assembled a task force during the summer to make changes to get the program back on track. The administration is in the final stages of its NPOESS review, Leslie said in a Jan. 5 e-mailed response to questions.
Air Force Col. Alec Robinson, who has been the NPOESS program manager since the previous program manager resigned in August, will serve as the top NPOESS official until any White House-ordered management changes are made, Leslie said.