We face immediate and compelling needs for better protection of life and property from natural hazards, and for a better understanding of the total environment - and understanding which will enable us more effectively to monitor and predict its actions, and ultimately, perhaps to exercise some degree of control over them.
We also face a compelling need for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources. The global oceans, which constitute nearly three-fourths of the surface of our planet, are today the least-understood, the least-developed, and the least-protected part of our earth. Food from the oceans will increasingly be a key element in the world's fight against hunger. The mineral resources of the ocean beds and of the oceans themselves, are being increasingly tapped to meet the growing world demand. We must understand the nature of these resources, and assure their development without either contaminating the marine environment or upsetting its balance.
Establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA - within the Department of Commerce would enable us to approach these tasks in a coordinated way. By employing a unified approach to the problems of the oceans and atmosphere, we can increase our knowledge and expand our opportunities not only in those areas, but in the third major component of our environment, the solid earth, as well.
Scattered through various Federal departments and agencies, we already have the scientific, technological, and administrative resources to make an effective, unified approach possible. What we need is to bring them together. Establishment of NOAA would do so.
By far the largest of the components being merged would be the Commerce Department's Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), with some 10,000 employees (70 percent of NOAA's total personnel strength) and estimated Fiscal 1970 expenditures of almost $200 million. Placing NOAA within the Department of Commerce therefore entails the least dislocation, while also placing it within a Department which has traditionally been a center for service activities in the scientific and technological area.
In addition, by executive action, the programs of the following organizations would be transferred to NOAA:
In brief, these are the principal functions of the programs and agencies to be combined:
ESSA's activities include observing and predicting the state of the oceans, the state of the lower and upper atmosphere, and the size and shape of the earth. It maintains the nation's warning systems for such natural hazards as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and seismic sea waves. It provides information for national defense, agriculture, transportation and industry.
ESSA monitors atmospheric, oceanic and geophysical phenomena on a global basis, through an unparalleled complex of air, ocean, earth and space facilities. It also prepares aeronautical and marine maps and charts.
Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and marine sport fish activities.
- Those fishery activities of the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which are ocean related and those which are directed toward commercial fishing would be transferred. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Bureau of Commercial Fisheries has the dual function of strengthening the fishing industry and promoting conservation of fishery stocks. It conducts research on important marine species and on fundamental oceanography, and operates a fleet of oceanographic vessels and a number of laboratories. Most of its activities would be transferred. From the Fish and Wildlife Service's Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, the marine sport fishing program would be transferred. This involves five supporting laboratories and three ships engaged in activities to enhance marine sport fishing opportunities.
The Marine Minerals Technology Center is concerned with the development of marine mining technology.
Office of Sea Grant Programs. - The Sea Grant Program was authorized in 1966 to permit the Federal Government to assist the academic and industrial communities in developing marine resources and technology. It aims at strengthening education and training of marine specialists, supporting applied research in the recovery and use of marine resources, and developing extension and advisory services. The Office carries out these objectives by making grants to selected academic institutions.
The U.S. Lake Survey has two primary missions. It prepares and publishes navigation charts of the Great Lakes and tributary waters and conducts research on a variety of hydraulic and hydrologic phenomena of the Great Lakes' waters. Its activities are very similar to those conducted along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by ESSA's Coast and Geodetic Survey.
The National Oceanographic Data Center is responsible for the collection and dissemination of oceanographic data accumulated by all Federal agencies.
The National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center provides a central Federal service for the calibration and testing of oceanographic instruments.
The National Data Buoy Development Project was established to determine the feasibility of deploying a system of automatic ocean buoys to obtain oceanic and atmospheric data.
I expect that NOAA would exercise leadership in developing a national oceanic and atmospheric program of research and development. It would coordinate its own scientific and technical resources with the technical and operational capabilities of other government agencies and private institutions. As important, NOAA would continue to provide those services to other agencies of government, industry and private individuals which have become essential to the efficient operation of our transportation systems, our agriculture and our national security. I expect it to maintain continuing and close liaison with the new Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality as part of an effort to ensure that environmental questions are dealt with in their totality and they benefit from the full range of the government's technical and human resources.
Authorities who have studied this matter, including the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources, strongly recommended the creation of a National Advisory Committee for the Oceans. I agree. Consequently, I will request, upon approval of the plan, that the Secretary of Commerce establish a National Advisory Committee for the Oceans and the Atmosphere to advise him on the progress of governmental and private programs in achieving the nation's oceanic and atmospheric objectives.
In formulating these reorganization plans, I have been greatly aided by the work of the President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization (the Ash Council), the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources (the Stratton Commission, appointed by President Johnson), my special task force on oceanography headed by Dr. James Wakelin, and by the information developed during both House and Senate hearings on proposed NOAA legislation.
Many of those who have advised me have proposed additional reorganizations, and it may well be that in the future I shall recommend further changes. For the present, however, I think the two reorganizations transmitted today represent a sound and significant beginning. I also think that in practical terms, in this sensitive and rapidly developing area, it is better to proceed a step at a time - and thus to be sure that we are not caught up in a form of organizational indigestion from trying to rearrange too much at once. As we see how these changes work out, we will gain a better understanding of what further changes - in addition to these - might be desirable.
Ultimately, our objective should be to insure that the nation's environmental and resource protection activities are so organized as to maximize both the effective coordination of all and the effective functioning of each.
The Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man. With its acceptance of these reorganization plans, the Congress will help us fulfill that commitment.
The White House, July 9, 1970.