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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a science-based agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NOAA monitors and researches the oceanic and atmospheric environments to provide information to the public, related industries, researchers and government agencies. The NOAA forecasts changes in these environments to support economic productivity and assesses safe and cost-effective methods for related industries such as fisheries. The NOAA’s services extend into climate, commerce, transportation, weather and water.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was formed in 1970 from three pre-existing agencies: the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (1807), the Weather Bureau (1870), and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (1871). The NOAA, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, was part of a reorganization effort meant to coordinate and consolidate the scattered environmental activities into a rational administration. These efforts were the result of the 1966 Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act that created a commission to review the multiple marine activities. In 1969, the reorganization efforts extended to replace the Department of the Interior with the Department of Natural Resources, which was to include the new NOAA. This NOAA would combine activities from the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) from the Department of Commerce. Since the ESSA compromised a large part of the NOAA, Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans consolidated the NOAA into the Department of Commerce temporarily to retain employees and budget allocations. Deliberations in the Executive led to the Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970 that permanently moved the NOAA to the Department of Commerce.


An Official History of NOAA


What it Does  

According to the NOAA website, its programs’ responsibilities extend from the ocean to the atmosphere and include seven line offices and the NOAA Corps.

National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services (NESDIS)- Acquires and manages the nations environment satellites, provides data and information, and performs related research.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)- Acts as a steward of marine and coastal areas to preserve and manage living marine resources. NMFS assesses fish stocks, enforces fishing regulations and advocates for sustainable fishing methods to increase economic and recreational opportunities.
National Ocean Service (NOS)- Supports safe navigation, coastal communities and marine environments through information and products. It also mitigates coastal and ecosystem hazards.
National Weather Service (NWS)- Provides weather, hydrologic and climate warnings and forecasts.
Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO)- Operates specialized ships and aircrafts to carry out research missions for NOAA. The OMAO fleet is operated and managed by the NOAA Corps Officers along with civilian employees.
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)- Provides research to help understand environmental phenomenon, develop new technologies, and provide information for consumers in business, conservation and policy making.

Office of Program Planning and Integration

(PPI)- Uses corporate management to effectively run NOAA’s many programs with stakeholders, domestic and international partners in regards to environmentalism. PPI involves strategic management, support for employees and performance evaluation.


Where Does the Money Go  


Top 10 Contractors
International Business Machines Corporation                          $270,673,071
Noblis, Inc.                                                                              $219,611,251
Raytheon Company                                                                 $217,866,644
Saic, Inc.                                                                                  $209,910,764
Wyle Information Systems, LLC                                              $178,942,835
The Aerospace Corporation                                                     $145,029,952
I.M. Systems Group, Inc.                                                         $132,185,860
Emhart Corporation                                                                 $119,169,317
Computer Sciences Corporation                                                          $107,915,365
Northrop Grumman Corporation                                                          $91,496,524
IBM was awarded a nine-year contract from the NOAA in 2002 to help meteorologists and scientists improve climate and weather forecasts. The IBM supercomputers will process more data and generate highly advanced models to help meteorologists make more accurate forecasts.
Noblis provides the NOAA with high-level planning and design in the development and management of systems that support NOAA's core programs, and technical engineering support for testing, selecting, and implementing technology.
Raytheon Company was contracted to maintain, operate and upgrade high performance computing platforms for the NOAA's three primary weather and climate research labs: the National Center for Environmental Prediction, the Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and the Earth Systems Research Laboratory.
Saic was awarded a $250 million contract to provide hyrographic surveying services to support NOAA's nautical charting mission by collecting, processing, analyzing, and reporting sonar, tidal, water level, and other hydrographic survey data which will be used in updating nautical charts. 
Wyle Information Systems provides a comprehensive range of Information Technology services.
The Aerospace Corporation supports the NOAA in architecture development, system requirements management, major system acquisition support, operational polar and geostationary satellite systems and associated ground systems development and planning.
The I.M. Systems Group has a Blanket Purchase Agreement with the NOAA in which they provide project-specific scientific and technical support that are relevant to and advance NOAA's overall mission, strategic objectives, and program-specific goals.
The Computer Sciences Corporation has been contracted to provide the NOAA with Information Technology services, including Cost/benefit and requirements analyses, business process reengineering, capital investment planning, technical feasibility studies, capacity planning, and independent verification and validation - assessments, testing, and recommendations.
Northrop Grumman Corporation was awarded a contract, along with other companies, to design and build a climate satellite.  Northrop Grumman will design a platform with enabling technologies including enhanced data handling on the ground, as well as an improved spacecraft integrated with state-of-the-art sensors.

Censoring Scientists

The NOAA has undergone criticism, along with the rest of the Bush administration, for censoring scientists and for limiting media access to information regarding the causes and implications of global warming.
Censorship is Alleged at NOAA (by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post)
Statement Acknowledges Some Government Scientists See Link to Global Warming (by Antonio Regalado and Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal)
A Storm Over Warming (by Bret Schulte, U.S. News & World Report)
Bush's science man sceptical about global warming weather link (Lateline, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Ouster of Hurricane Center Director
The NOAA and its administrator were criticized for the removal of National Hurricane Director, Bill Proenza and the effectiveness of the QuickSCAT satellite technology.
Chairmen Seek Answers on Controversy at National Hurricane Center (House Committee on Science and Technology)
Importance of QuickSCAT Downplayed (by Jefferson Morris, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report)
Losing sight of Planet Earth (by Molly Bentley,BBC News)
Lawmakers back ousted hurricane center chief (by Anika Gupta,
Ousted hurricane center chief defends request for new satellite (by Aliya Sternstein, National Journal’s Technology Daily)
U.S. Weather and Environmental Satellites: Ready for the 21st Century? (statement by Antonio J. Busalacchi, Jr., Hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation)
NOAA names new National Hurricane Center director (by Bob Brewin,
Ocean Deserts
Are the Oceans Giving Up? (by K. Jayalakshmi, Deccan Herald)
Extreme Weather Ahead

Report on Climate Predicts Extremes

(by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post)


Suggested Reforms  

House Committee Chair Calls for Reform of NOAA Public Affairs Policy (ClimateScienceWatch)

Addressing Oceans and Climate Change in Federal Legislation (Joint Ocean Commission Initiative) (PDF)


Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1970
Annual Budget: $4 billion
Employees: around 12,000

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Lubchenco, Jane
Under Secretary

Jane Lubchenco, one of the nation’s most prominent marine biologists, has devoted much of her career to encouraging scientists to become more engaged in public policy debates, and is a vocal proponent of curbing greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Born on December 4, 1947, Lubchenco grew up in Denver with her five younger sisters. Her father was a surgeon and her mother a pediatrician. She attended a Catholic girls’ high school, St. Mary’s Academy, where, like so many Obama appointees, she played basketball. Lubchenco attended Colorado College, where she fell in love with the ocean during a summer course in invertebrate zoology at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. After earning her BA in biology in 1969, she received her MS in zoology from the University of Washington in 1971, and her PhD in ecology from Harvard University in 1975.
From 1975-1977, Lubchenco served as assistant professor at Harvard, sandwiched around a one-year visiting professorship in 1976 at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. She then moved on to Oregon State University, beginning her more than 30-year career there. She worked as an assistant professor (1977-1982) and then associate professor (1982-88). Concurrently, she was a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution (1978-1984), spent time in 1986 at the Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Chile, and part of 1987 at the Institute of Oceanography, Academica Sinica, Qingdao, China.
In 1988, Lubchenco was made a full professor at Oregon State. She chaired the Department of Zoology from 1989 to 1992. In 1993, she was made a distinguished professor, and two years later, she was given the new title of Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology. Also in 1995, she began her teaching relationship at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand (1995-96, 1999-2000, 2002-2003).
Lubchenco’s expertise includes interactions between humans and the environment: biodiversity, climate change, sustainability science, ecosystem services, marine reserves, coastal marine ecosystems, the state of the oceans and of the planet. She has led an interdisciplinary team of scientists studying the marine ecosystem off the west coast of the United States.
She has served as president of the International Council for Science (the first woman to do so), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Ecological Society of America. She was a presidential appointee to two terms on the National Science Board (1996-2006), which advises the President and Congress and oversees the National Science Foundation. She co-chaired an Oregon gubernatorial advisory group on global warming that recommended actions the state should take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lubchenco founded the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program that teaches environmental scientists to be leaders and communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector. She currently serves as chair of the program’s advisory board. She also participated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a five-year, international scientific assessment of the consequences of environmental changes to human well-being, and co-chaired the MA’s Synthesis for Business and Industry (PDF). She is also a Founding Principal of COMPASS (the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea), a collaboration among academic scientists, communication and media specialists that communicates academic marine conservation science to policy makers, the media, managers and the public.
Lubchenco served on the Pew Oceans Commission and now the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (a merger of the Pew Oceans Commission and the US Commission on Ocean Policy). She is a director, co-chair or trustee of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, SeaWeb and the Environmental Defense Fund; Trustee Emerita of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and a former trustee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the World Resources Institute.
Lubchenco is married to Bruce Menge, also a marine biologist, and the couple has two sons.
Jane Lubchenco (Mother Jones Profile)
Conversations with Outstanding Americans; Jane Lubchenco (by Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor)
Lautenbacher, Conrad
Previous Under Secretary

Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.) was appointed Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on December 19, 2001, and resigned effective October 31, 2008. Lautenbacher graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964 and is now a retired Vice Admiral, having served 40 years in the navy. He received an M.S. and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in applied mathematics. Lautenbacher started his own consulting business and primarily worked with Technology, Strategies & Alliances Inc., which services government defense and security agencies. He was also president and CEO of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education. As NOAA Administrator, Lautenbacher has headed many international government summits and conferences, such as the U.N. Framework for Climate Change, World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa (2002), World Meteorological Organization, Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ocean Ministerial Meetings (2002, 2005), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and he led the first Earth Observation Summit (2003), culminating in an agreement on the implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.

Lautenbacher Skeptical about Global Warming (by Sarah Clarke, Lateline, Australian Broadcasting System)