The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.
With 321 officers, the NOAA Corps serves throughout the agency’s line and staff offices to support nearly all of NOAA’s programs and missions. The combination of commissioned service and scientific expertise makes these officers uniquely capable of leading some of NOAA’s most important initiatives.
The NOAA Corps is part of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and traces its roots to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson. In 1970, NOAA was created to develop a coordinated approach to oceanographic and atmospheric research and subsequent legislation converted the commissioned officer corps to the NOAA Corps.
The NOAA Corps today provides a cadre of professionals trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines. Corps officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA.
Benefits of the NOAA Corps to the Nation
The combination of commissioned service with scientific and operational expertise, allows the NOAA Corps to provide a unique and indispensable service to the nation. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders. For example:
- In November 2014, NOAA aircraft flew missions over upstate New York after the record snow falls of up to seven feet and conducted airborne Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) and soil moisture measurements. Airborne SWE measurements are used by NOAA’s National Weather Service when issuing river and flood forecasts, water supply forecasts, and spring flood outlooks.
- After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, NOAA ships Thomas Jefferson and Ferdinand R. Hassler conducted emergency seafloor surveys to locate possible submerged navigational hazards in the ports of New York and Virginia. These surveys enabled the ports to reopen quickly. Aerial images of storm-stricken regions, taken by NOAA aircraft, helped residents and emergency workers to quickly assess the condition of houses, bridges, and vital infrastructure.
- After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler and team completed 300 lineal nautical miles of survey work in less than 48 hours providing a damage assessment that enabled the U.S. Coast Guard to re-open ports and restore maritime commerce less than three days after the storm.
- In 2010, the NOAA fleet and the NOAA Corps played a major role in the response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NOAA's entire Atlantic fleet and over a quarter of the total strength of the NOAA Corps were deployed to the Gulf following the spill, developing mission plans and assisting response efforts.
NOAA Corps Mission
Provide officers technically competent to assume positions of leadership and command in the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of Commerce (DOC) programs and in the Armed Forces during times of war or national emergency.
Discipline and flexibility are inherent in the NOAA Corps personnel system. Officers are trained for positions of leadership and command in the operation of ships and aircraft; in the conduct of field projects on land, at and under the sea, and in the air; in the management of NOAA observational and support facilities; as members or leaders of research efforts; and in the management of various organizational elements throughout NOAA.
NOAA Corps Values: Honor, Respect, Commitment
Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity. We will conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships. We will take responsibility for our actions and be accountable for our professional and personal behavior. We will do what is right at all times.
Commit to treat each individual with human dignity. We will value inclusiveness and tolerance, respecting diversity of expression while maintaining unity of purpose. We will cultivate an environment where all can excel.
Commit and dedicate ourselves to the nation and NOAA. We will serve our nation effectively and efficiently with knowledge, skill, loyalty, and perseverance. We will be mindful of the resources entrusted to us and will ensure they are used in an honest, careful, and efficient way.
These core values serve as our road map and set the standard for our behavior. They serve to remind us of the importance of the profession we have chosen, the oath we took, and the demands placed upon us as members of a uniformed service. Because we each represent NOAA to the public, we must all embrace these values in our professional undertakings as well as in our personal lives.