The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), may find itself in a new home in the Department of Interior (DOI). The Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports:

Jeffrey D. Zients, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters this morning that the White House would like to move NOAA -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- out of Commerce and make it part of the Interior Department.

The proposed move is part of a larger Obama administration initiative to streamline government announced today.

Established under the Department of Commerce (DOC) in October, 1970 by President Richard Nixon, NOAA is the parent agency of the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), the National Ocean Service, and several other organizations.

President Obama took a stab at President Nixon’s four-decade old decision to place NOAA in DOC and told reporters that DOI would be a more “sensible” home:

If you’re wondering what the genesis of this [NOAA’s placement in Department of Commerce] was apparently, this had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing the Vietnam War. So he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place

The commonality in NOAA's and DOI’s mission to protect/conserve natural resources is at least part of the rationale for the switch.

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater” Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address (source: TheHill)

(Note: salmon actually spend time in both freshwater and the ocean)

NOAA and DOI also both conduct climate change research.


NOAA’s stated mission is:

Science, Service, and Stewardship.
To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts,
To share that knowledge and information with others, and
To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

The mission statement of the DOC begins:

The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers.
(...and continues for several paragraphs.)

The DOI’s mission statement is simply:

Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.