Obama Wants to Move NOAA to the Interior Department
President Obama announced today a plan to reorganize part of the U.S. government that could have a significant impact on the U.S. civil weather satellite program.
The focal point of the plan, which requires congressional approval, is to merge five business- and trade-related agencies with some elements of the Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department itself would be abolished. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages the nation's civil weather satellites, is currently part of the Commerce Department, but under the Obama plan would be transferred to the Department of the Interior.
In his remarks today, the President blamed President Richard Nixon for putting NOAA in the Commerce Department in the first place.
"My favorite example -- which I mentioned in last year’s State of the Union address -- as it turns out, the Interior Department is in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in saltwater. (Laughter.) If you’re wondering what the genesis of this was, apparently, it had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing him about the Vietnam War. And so he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place."
Although the details of President Obama's proposal are not yet posted on the White House website, Politico, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and The Hill newspaper all state that the plan includes moving NOAA to Interior. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Deputy Director for Management Jeff Zients, who oversaw development of the reorganization plan, also stated that NOAA would move to Interior during a meeting with the press at the White House this morning.
Reaction to the President's overall proposal so far has been mixed. As for the idea of transferring NOAA to Interior, the NRDC said it was "extremely troubled" because it could "erode the capabilities and mute the voice of the government’s primary agency for protecting our oceans and the ecosystems and economies that depend on them." In addition to its satellite activities through the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), NOAA's major components are the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Ocean Service, the National Weather Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the Office of Program Planning and Integration.
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