NOAA Corps Improvements Receive Unanimous Senate Vote
Begich Uses Chairmanship to Push Bill Through Senate
As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, Sen. Mark Begich was pleased to announce that the Senate tonight unanimously passed a bill to improve the nation’s ocean survey workforce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s commissioned officer corps (the NOAA Corps).
Begich shepherded the bill through the Senate and was joined by a bipartisan group of cosponsors including Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine and Senator Murkowski. The late Senate President Pro Tempore, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, was also a cosponsor.
“In Alaska, oceans are key to our economic prosperity, from fishing to responsible oil and gas development to transportation of goods and people,” Begich said. “We rely on the NOAA Corps to chart shipping routes and survey fish populations. As we expand activity in the Arctic, we will rely on the Corps even more for baseline scientific research in that region. We need to attract the best and brightest young men and women to the Corps and ensure that we retain knowledgeable senior officers.”
The bill provides mechanisms to more closely align NOAA Corps officers’ obligations and benefits with other uniformed services. It helps the Corps improve both its diversity and retention of senior female officers.
“The Senate has acted to support the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the NOAA Corps,” said Begich. “We hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow our lead, and soon.”
The NOAA Corps Amendments Act of 2012 would:
Improve the Corps’ diversity through multiple provisions including one modeled on the Coast Guard’s successful “Blue 21” program.
- Authorize financial support of highly qualified minority science and engineering college students if they agree to join the NOAA Corps.
- Balances demands of senior officers with families by authorizing unpaid sabbatical for senior officers so they can leave the service for a few years to start a family and return at the rank they achieved before leaving.
- Saves money by reducing officer pay while in they are in training status and limits any new spending to the savings that generates.
The bill has been endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association and the National Association for Uniformed Services.