Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps gets a big boost from reauthorization legislation

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps received significant new authorities to support NOAA’s mission on Dec. 23, 2020, when President Trump signed a bill that will expand and enhance the uniformed service.

“I have worked closely with NOAA Corps officers throughout my career and know firsthand what an incredibly valuable asset they are,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., deputy undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA. “This important legislation is recognition of the NOAA Corps’ many contributions to the nation and a vote of confidence in its dedicated, uniformed officers.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2020 authorizes the NOAA Corps to adjust the number of officers, as needed and funded, from 321 to a maximum of 500. It also expands some benefits to NOAA Corps officers to align them better with the other uniformed services, and includes provisions that will enhance NOAA’s ability to recruit and retain officers, and increase diversity in the workforce. With their specialized training and commitment to serving the nation in uniform, NOAA Corps officers play a vital role in supporting NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

“This reauthorization act ensures that the NOAA Corps will be able to support NOAA and the nation more effectively than ever before,” said NOAA Rear Adm. Michael J. Silah, director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

NOAA Corps officers command ships that map the seafloor for potential hazards to shipping, monitor oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, and study ocean resources. They also pilot NOAA’s famous Hurricane Hunters and other state-of-the-art aircraft that collect data essential to hurricane and flood prediction, nautical charting, disaster response, and resource management. When not at sea or in the air, NOAA Corps officers apply their operational experience, expertise, and training to advance new technologies, lead program and project teams, and respond to severe weather events, oil spills, and other emergencies.

The corps was established in 1917 as a commissioned service of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, whose mission was to provide critical environmental intelligence to the nation both in times of war and peace. It became the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps when NOAA was formed in 1970. Learn more about the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps at