President Obama Proposes Moving NOAA to Department of Interior

President Obama announced Friday a plan to shake up and streamline federal departments and agencies.  As part of that, he wants to move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA from under the Commerce Department to Interior.

NOAA includes fisheries – and has a huge impact on Alaska’s fish stocks and jobs.

Jeff Zients, Deputy Director for the Office of Management and Budget, says there aren’t yet details of exactly how NOAA would look after the proposed move.

“The whole of NOAA moves to the Interior Department.  How we appropriate integrate so that we’re achieving efficiency and making sure that we are achieving the mission of NOAA in the context of the Interior Department will be worked out as part of the details of the specific proposal,” Zients said.

NOAA makes up more than 50 percent of the Commerce Department’s budget.

Fisheries and oceans advocates have long complained that NOAA was an odd fit under Commerce.  But there’s less agreement about what exactly to do with it.

The White House plan was met with skepticism by Senator Mark Begich, even though he’s a member of the President’s Democratic Party.  In a statement, Begich said NOAA will be “buried” in the Interior Department, which he called ‘already over-burdened.”

Begich says since NOAA oversees proper management of fisheries, it’s vital to thousands of Alaskan jobs and plays an important role in protecting the resource.

The environmental group The Ocean Conservancy says it would prefer NOAA be strengthened and made more independent, not stuck under Interior.

Last year at his State of the Union Address President Obama quipped that proof government should be streamlined could be found in the management of salmon.  He said it’s under different jurisdictions when it’s in freshwater verses saltwater.  Today Jeff Zients says the proposed reorganization will clear that up.

“It’s good news for salmon.  In that the salmon, both saltwater and freshwater will be finally together, when we receive our consolidation authority and submit the proposal it will include NOAA moving to the Dept of Interior and Fresh and saltwater salmon will be together,” Zients said.

Before the reorganization can happen the President needs the approval of Congress to consolidate agencies.

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