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Congress reauthorizes law supporting partnerships to advance ocean science

Congress reauthorizes law supporting partnerships to advance ocean science

Congress voted on January 1, 2021 to reauthorize and strengthen the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, a 23-year old program created by Congress to facilitate ocean-related partnerships between federal agencies, academia and industry to advance ocean science research and education.The reauthorization passed Congress as an amendment included in Section 1055 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

“This is great news for the ocean that Americans rely on for environmental and economic well-being,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. "The reauthorization will help increase exciting and cost-effective partnerships that improve ocean science and education, strengthen the Blue Economy, and our national security.”

Teaming up to study Atlantic deep waters

Teaming up to study Atlantic deep waters

With support from the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, NOAA, BOEM, USGS and academia teamed up to explore coral habitats like this one, where a red bubblegum coral (Paragorgia) and several colonies of Primnoa occupy a boulder in close proximity to an anemone and sea star, at ~440 meters in Norfolk Canyon. Credit: Deepwater Canyons 2013 - Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS.

NOPP, co-chaired by the Secretary of the Navy and the NOAA Administrator, is comprised of several federal agencies that have ocean-related missions.

"Last year, with $5 million of dedicated NOPP funding, NOAA was able to leverage $13 million of non-NOAA and other NOAA funding to support $18 million worth of important projects," said Craig McLean, NOAA assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. "This large return on investment is enhancing NOAA’s operational efficiency, improving resource management, and accelerating the transition of research into operational ocean, weather and climate applications.”

A recent example of a NOPP-facilitated project brings together the private company Saildrone with researchers at the University of New Hampshire and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on a team that is developing and testing a new uncrewed seagoing system. Called the Saildrone Surveyor, the system is equipped with multi-beam mapping systems and an environmental sample processor that can take water samples and identify the presence or absence of organisms or toxins. The uncrewed system will help advance NOAA and the nation’s mission to explore, characterize and map the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone as well as manage sustainable fisheries. 

The reauthorized law strengthens NOPP in several ways:

  • Provides greater congressional engagement and support for NOPP and increased transparency through an annual report that will be posted online for the public as well as shared with Congress.

  • Gives authority directly to the NOAA administrator and the Secretary of the Navy to establish the NOPP partnership program office and competitively choose a nongovernmental organization to manage this office.

  • Codifies the National Ocean Policy Committee, a White House committee that engages and collaborates with stakeholders to address matters involving the ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters of the United States.

  • Transfers the administration of the Ocean Research Advisory Panel from the Navy to NOAA. The panel advises the Ocean Policy Committee on policies and procedures to implement the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.

  • Broadens the mandate for the Ocean Policy Committee to ensure diversity and inclusion be represented by the members on the Ocean Research Advisory Panel by adding specific sectors -- states, tribal, territorial and local governments -- to the law’s existing list of sectors to be represented as well as gender and racial diversity. 

Since 1997, NOPP has funded more than 200 projects that address our nation’s economic development, national security, quality of life, and science education. NOPP projects span a broad range of topics in oceanographic research, including environmental monitoring, ocean exploration, earth systems modeling, technology development, and marine resource management.

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, NOAA Communications, by email at or by cell at 202-379-6693.

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