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The creation of NOAA was largely the result of an effort which began in June 1966 with enactment of the Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-454). The Act declared it to be the policy of the United States to:

develop, encourage, and maintain a coordinated, comprehensive, and long-range national program in marine science for the benefit of mankind, to assist in protection of health and property, enhancement of commerce, transportation, and national security, rehabilitation of our commercial fisheries, and increased utilization of these and other resources.

To ensure the effective implementation of this policy, the Act created a Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources to review and assess existing and planned U.S. marine science activities and recommend the required national oceanographic program and Governmental organizational plan.

The Commission was comprised of fifteen members, appointed by the President, representing Federal and State governments, industry, academia, and other institutions with programs or interest in marine science and technology. The Commission was chaired by Julius A. Stratton, Chairman of the Ford Foundation, and included: Leon Jaworski (then Attorney with Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates and Jaworski), John H. Perry, Jr. (President Perry Publications, Inc.), John Knauss (Dean, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island), and Robert M. White (Administrator of the Commerce Department's Environmental Science Services Administration). As specified in the Act, the Commission was provided with four Congressional advisors including former Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington -- a name which is associated with much of this nation's ocean-related legislation. The "Stratton Commission", as it came to be called, began deliberations in early 1967 and on January 9, 1969 submitted their final report to the President and Congress. That document, Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National Action, set the stage for the evolution of this Nation's current programs in marine science and resource development.

Of particular interest was the Commission's recommendation to create a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency which would administer the Nation's principal civil marine and atmospheric programs. The Commission was largely driven by the need to ensure the "full and wise use of the marine environment" but, in reviewing the need to describe, understand and predict global ocean processes, they recognized the need to address the oceans and atmosphere as interactive components of the global environment. As a result, they recommended that the new Agency incorporate atmospheric science as well.

As envisioned by the Commission, the new independent Agency was to be initially composed of:

• The U.S. Coast Guard;

• The Environmental Science Services Administration of the Department of Commerce;

• The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the marine and anadromous fisheries functions of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife of the Department of Interior;

• The National Sea Grant Program from the National Science Foundation;

• elements of the U.S. Lake Survey of the Department of the Army, and;

• The Department of the Navy's National Oceanographic Data Center.

The Commission urged that "Because of the importance of the seas to this Nation and the world, our Federal organization of marine affairs must be put in order." [2]

Reorganization Plan #4

Immediately after publication of Our Nation and the Sea, Congress responded by beginning deliberations on the creation of the new agency. The concept was also incorporated into President Nixon's Advisory Council on Executive Organization. This Council, appointed in 1969 and chaired by Ray L. Ash (Litton Industries), made a series of recommendations on re-structuring the executive branch. One of those proposals was to replace the Department of Interior with a new Department of Natural Resources. One of the elements of the Department was to be a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which would combine some elements of the Department of Interior with the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) of the Department of Commerce. Then Secretary of Commerce, Maurice Stans, noting that ESSA would comprise more than two-thirds of this new Agency (some 10,000 employees and an estimated FY 1970 budget of approximately $200 million) countered with a proposal to, at least initially, consolidate and house NOAA within Commerce and transfer it to the proposed Department of Natural Resources at a later date. [3] Prior to the Stans' proposal, the Administration had been considering housing an interim organization in the Department of Interior. The logic of Secretary Stans' recommendation, possibly combined with some political tensions between the White House and Interior Secretary Hickel, lead [Ed. led] to a decision in favor of Commerce. Deliberations within the Executive Branch finally resulted in Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970 which was proposed in early July and became effective ninety days later in October 1970. President Nixon had concurred with Secretary Stans and, incorporating elements from the Stratton Commission Report, the Ash Council recommendations, and Congressional deliberations, proposed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration be created within the Department of Commerce.

Like the Stratton Commission Report, Reorganization Plan No. 4 proposed that the following programs be transferred to the new agency:

• the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) of the Department of Commerce;

• most of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, and the marine sport fishing program of its Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife;

• The Office of Sea Grant Programs from the National Science Foundation;

• The mapping, charting and research functions of the Army's U.S. Lake Survey; and

• The Navy's National Oceanographic Data Center.

Reorganization Plan No. 4 did not implement the Stratton Commission's recommendation to include the Coast Guard in the new NOAA, but went beyond that Commission's proposed agency by also including:

• The Marine Minerals Technology Center of Interior's Bureau of Mines;

• The Navy's National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center; and

• The National Data Buoy Project from Department of Transportation.

In testimony before the House Committee on Government Operations, Secretary Stans described the creation of NOAA as an extension of the Department's historical science and technology programs:

We already have in the Department the solid base of science and technology which will buttress the foundation of an exciting and vigorous NOAA...
I believe that the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will enable this nation in the decades ahead to fully and wisely utilize and understand the oceans and the atmosphere. This new initiative ... will greatly enhance the quality of our environment, our security, our economy, and our ability to meet increased demands for food and raw materials. I regard the establishment of NOAA as an essential step forward. [4]

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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