The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been in existence
since its establishment in1970 by President Nixon, but it has never
been authorized by Congress. On September 20, the House passed, by voice
vote, authorizing legislation for NOAA. However, no companion bill was
introduced in the Senate. It is not likely that Congress will take up
this issue when it returns this fall. The authorization of NOAA will
have to wait for a new Congress to be convened next year, for similar
legislation to be introduced in the House again, and for the Senate
to take action.
The House bill, H.R. 5450, was introduced by Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI),
and cosponsored by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
(R-NY) and Reps. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).
H.R. 5450 would authorize NOAA within the Department of Commerce, with
the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere serving as
the NOAA Administrator. Its mission would be to "understand the
systems of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere and predict changes in
the Earth's oceans and atmosphere and the effects of such changes on
the land environment, to conserve and manage coastal, ocean, and Great
Lakes ecosystems to meet national economic, social, and environmental
needs, and to educate the public about these topics."
Among the job titles authorized, the bill would create the position
of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science and Education, to coordinate
science and education activities within the agency. It would also establish
a Science Advisory Board for NOAA.
The authorizing legislation would maintain, within NOAA, the National
Weather Service; programs to collect and disseminate oceanic, atmospheric,
coastal and lake information; and programs to educate, support research,
and develop technologies related to weather, climate, oceans and coasts.
It would require the Administrator to submit to Congress, among other
documents, a reorganization plan and a strategic plan for science and
"NOAA reaches into the lives of nearly every citizen in this country,
from the daily weather forecasts and critical storm warnings, to the
safety of our seafood, to drought predictions that affect the way we
grow our food," said Rep. Ehlers in a press release. "It will,"
he added, "make NOAA stronger and more capable of doing its job."
H.R. 5450 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science
Legislation authorizing NOAA, if signed into law, would fulfill recommendations
made by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (see FYI
#90, 2004) and the Pew Oceans Commission.