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US House Members Introduce Bill To Make NOAA A Independent Agency

A group of US House members have introduced a bill seeking to transform the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into an independent agency while retaining its commercial space responsibilities within the Commerce Department.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sat Jun 17 2023Written by Zac Aubert

A group of US House members have introduced a bill seeking to transform the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into an independent agency while retaining its commercial space responsibilities within the Commerce Department.

The legislation, called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act of 2023, was introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas and aims to provide formal authorization for NOAA, which was originally established by executive order in 1970 but never granted statutory authority by Congress.

NOAA, responsible for a range of activities including satellite operations for terrestrial and space weather data collection, as well as hosting the Office of Space Commerce, would benefit from becoming an independent agency, according to proponents of the bill. They argue that such a move would reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies, streamline oversight efforts, and allow NOAA to fully realize its potential.

The proposed legislation draws parallels with NASA, which operates as an independent agency and has enjoyed success in reducing bureaucracy.

During a hearing in April, former heads of NOAA expressed their support for the bill, highlighting the challenges they faced in coordinating activities with Commerce Department officials who often lacked a deep understanding of NOAA's mission. 

While no opposition was expressed during the hearing, concerns were raised about various aspects, including the continuation of NOAA's work in different areas and the potential costs associated with establishing its own support staff instead of relying on Commerce Department capabilities.

The bill, if passed, would transfer NOAA out of the Commerce Department to create an independent agency but would retain the Office of Space Commerce within Commerce.

The transformation into an independent agency would address NOAA's branding and marketing challenges as many individuals, including those within the Commerce Department, are unaware of NOAA's role and responsibilities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act of 2023 will now undergo further consideration and review by lawmakers as it progresses through the legislative process.