MOAA Supports Bill to Grow NOAA Corps to 500 Officers

MOAA Supports Bill to Grow NOAA Corps to 500 Officers
Crew members aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, a fisheries survey vessel. (NOAA photo)

For over a century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has served the nation as the technical and scientific uniformed service through oceanographic surveys, fisheries stock research, weather/climate research, and other related disciplines.

NOAA officers are at the heart of these operations and also liaise with the U.S. Navy. The flexibility of its officer corps to deploy for lengthy periods of time at sea, on land, or in the air require comparable benefits to that of the other uniformed services. Recently proposed legislation by Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), would address the statutory authorities, benefits, and service obligations which are currently lacking within NOAA.

H.R. 2406, known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2019, proposes several amendments to manage the size and composition of the Corps. Of particular interest is the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to commission up to 500 officers. While the proposed number seems a vast increase from the current 321, the larger number provides NOAA flexibility to address the emerging needs of the agency as determined by the Secretary and appropriated by Congress.


Growth of the officer corps has long been a goal of NOAA. While past reauthorizations have allowed for a gradual increase in this number, H.R. 2406 would eliminate the need for recurring legislation requesting potential expansion of the service.

Other entitlements included in the legislation:

  • Obligated terms of service – on par with the other uniformed services
  • Pre-commissioning programs, providing education incentives to recruit a diverse force in exchange for service requirements
  • Authority to hire and manage grade distribution
  • Augmented bonuses to incentivize officers with critical skills
  • Access to education loans and interest payment financial assistance


Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy NOAA Administrator, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on May 8: “I have not seen a more versatile, intelligent, and dedicated group in all of government. These brave officers, they are not an armed service, they are armed only with superior intellect and cutting-edge technology.”

The technical nature of its life-saving weather forecasts and warnings, along with reconnaissance in extreme weather conditions, managing and protecting the nation’s fisheries, and charting exclusive economic zones make NOAA a critical agency in service with our other uniformed services and their collective execution of our national defense.

No other resources at the national level are currently available to support these varied and crucial needs. MOAA fully supports this reauthorization and will continue to support federal statutes designed to improve mission outcomes for our men and women who serve in all seven of our uniformed services.

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About the Author

Caitlin Hamon
Caitlin Hamon

Hamon is a former associate director of government relations at MOAA.