Tuesday, August 13, 2013




 The NOAA Corps is probably the least known of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is part of the larger "Naval Establishment", its officers carry naval rank, and it provides vital services to the Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air force are uniformed services and also armed services in the Department of Defense. The U.S.Coast Guard is a uniformed service, law enforcement agency, and armed service in the department of Homeland Security, and a separate service within the Navy in times of war or when so ordered by the President.

  By Contrast, U.S.Public Health Service is a uniformed service , naval in character. Its uniformed members wear naval type uniforms and are assigned naval rank. The USPHS does not carry arms but is charged with the more arduous duties related to guarding our ports of entry  from invasion by pests and disease, providing medical services to the U.S.Coast Guard , assisting the Department of Homeland Security in guarding against biological attack, curbing epidemics, and augmenting the naval medical corps in time of war. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Officer Corps (NOAA CORPS) is the smallest uniformed service. With less than 400 uniformed commissioned officers it too is naval in character, rank, and uniforms. The primary duty of the NOAA corps is to operate the NOAA fleet of research and charting vessels and carry out the more arduous research duties of the service such as camping out on ice flows to gather data,, flying into hurricanes, anything involving diving, and important projects in coastal regions where time is short, pressure is high, and living conditions not to the liking of the typical civilian. The Corps also augments the Navy and Coast Guard particularly in oceanographic science missions as needed war or not.

  Some NOAA ships were armed in WWII and some may carry small arms for self defense in high risk areas today. The service traces its history as a continuous organization back to the "Coast Survey" of 1807 which was largely inspired by the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery"which returned the year before the Coast Survey" was started. The primary work product of the NOAA corps is the gathering of the raw data that goes into the NOAA produced navigation charts and navigation publications such as the "COAST PILOT". If you are a young physically fit person  interested in a career in oceanography and navigation use the link below to learn more about the NOAA Corps:


 The NOAA mission has been described as :

"...to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources."

 We bring up the NOAA Corps and fleet for the second time since last summer because the acquisition of the fleet by the U.S. Coast Guard was discussed on page 31 of the highly respected Naval Institute PROCEEDINGS August 2013 issue. In an article titled "REINVENT THE FIFTH ARMED SERVICE QUICKLY" authors Cpatain Jim Howe, USCG (ret.) and Lieutenant Jim Dolbow, USCGR  http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-08/reinvent-fifth-armed-service-quickly  described the NOAA fleet and suggest either direct acquisition by the Coast Guard or at least closer cooperation. In the article they mention that the NOAA  Officer Candidate School is moving to the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy. We think it is time to sound a cautionary note. While we are in favor of closer cooperation and coordination between the NOAA Corps, its fleet and air arm, we think assimilation into the Coast Guard is a terrible idea. One of the reasons for the Coast Guard's present shortage of floating patrol assets is "mission creep". The Coast Guard began life as a floating criminal law enforcement agency with permissive authority to perform search and rescue , and a stand by role as a naval auxiliary. The Coast Guard was from its earliest inception as the "Revenue Marine" an armed service "and more". The Coast Guard grew by assimilating other paramilitary agencies with federal maritime missions such as the U.S. Life Saving Service, and U.S. Light House Service, and later the Bureau of Steam Navigation. After being renamed "The U.S. Coast Guard" more civil maritime missions continued to be added. As warfare in the last decade of the 20th century became increasingly asymmetric the Navy and even the Army found more and more uses for Coast Guard "niche" military skills and the national defense role as well as the homeland security role of the Coast Guard increased dramatically as did demands on manpower, vessels and Aircraft. Budgets did not increase proportionately. 

 Throughout this entire time of explosive mission growth for the U.S. Coast Guard the Congress of the United States was busily shooting the American tax payer and themselves in the foot with bloated over extended budgets for everything but the things the nation really needs. Now with the self inflicted requirement of sequestration the Congress is mandated to reduce the budget by massive across the boards cuts but with the majority coming from "national defense". The Coast Guard's multi-mission platforms and personnel already over burdened, are receiving major budget cuts as part of sequestration. 

 In the past months we brought you the story of the grounding of the USS GUARDIAN in the Pacific in Philippine waters.http://americanadmiraltybooks.blogspot.com/2013/02/2132012-naval-interest-guardian-salvage.html The reef that the USS GUARDIAN grounded on is actually about 8 nautical miles from its charted position. Some modern charts of parts of the Pacific are still based on the charts and logs of Captain Cook. The NOAA Corps charting work is far from done and like everything else of real national importance takes a back seat in funding to whatever special interests help congressmen stay in office. The two Naval Institute PROCEEDINGS authors were proposing the reinvention of the Coast Guard because frankly the Coast Guard is sinking in a morass of unfunded mandates, terminal mission creep. The Navy, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, The Offshore Oil Industry and countless others need the navigation charts, publications, research, and other work products of the NOAA Corps. These are not Homeland Security functions but properly are considered Department of Commerce functions with defense utility. NOAA's fleet, air arm, and uniformed corps are under funded as the sorry state of Pacific charts indicates, but at least they are separately funded. Their mission is sheltered from the automatic sequestration cuts aimed at armed forces. This is no time to expose these vital national assets to the current insanity in Congress. If no one else in government has the intelligence to say no to creeping Coast Guard acquisition of the NOAA fleet and corps the general public must tell their Congressmen to leave the NOAA fleet and corps intact and in the Commerce Department. This is a tough call because the average American is completely unaware that the NOAA Corps exists.

 Underlying all of the problems of Coast Guard mission creep, inadequate Naval budgets that won't even allow the repair of the burned USS MIAMI, threats to the NOAA Corps, a disappearing Merchant Marine, and an offshore oil industry over run with foreign flag vessels is the utter lack of a coherent national maritime policy.  In Congress today serious maritime experience among the members is even more rare than honorable discharges which are scarce as hen's teeth. Please pass this post on to everyone you know. We encourage all of our readers regardless of what maritime or nautical interest brings you to our pages to read about naval and commercial maritime issues. We live in a nation that derives its economy from about 77 strategic materials 66 of which have to be imported by sea. We are a maritime nation led by a government composed of landlubbers. We have a government that is clueless in terms of a coherent national maritime policy. If the demand for such doesn't come from the people it isn't going to happen. The price on all of us will be very high. The days when we simply could maintain the world's biggest Navy out of our economic surplus and play the 300 pound gorilla when we didn't know exactly what to do are over.   Today we have to act intelligently in the maritime sphere or withdraw to "Fortress America", which will be no fortress to the rising naval powers, especially after the present administration finishes disarming the citizenry. 

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