Today, Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) released a draft bill to enshrine the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in law and establish it as an independent agency.

NOAA was created by executive order in 1970 and has never been established in law. It currently resides within the Department of Commerce. Lucas’ proposed legislation would give NOAA formal statutory authority and authorize its critical mission.

“From weather prediction to environmental observations to managing our fisheries, NOAA’s work supports more than one-third of our economy. It’s high time we enshrine its mission in law and stand it up as an independent agency,” Lucas said. “The language I’m releasing today represents a strategic plan to transition NOAA from the Department of Commerce while focusing its work on the core mission of protecting life and property. It was developed after years of extensive conversations with stakeholders. Passing a NOAA Organic Act is one of my top priorities for the 118th Congress, and I intend to work closely with our stakeholders, the Senate, and the Administration to make that happen. I’m looking forward to getting more feedback on this draft language so we can create the strongest possible bill for introduction in 2023.”

In addition to giving NOAA statutory authority, the NOAA Organic Act will promote scientific integrity and critical research within the agency by requiring NOAA’s Science Advisory Board to develop a strategic plan for their research and development activities every five years.

Importantly, the NOAA Organic Act ensures the National Weather Service will continue to operate within NOAA as it provides essential weather forecasts, monitors severe weather, and communicates life-saving information to communities and government agencies.

It also consolidates NOAA’s work by refocusing it on its core mission areas. It moves the Office of Commercial Space out of NOAA and elevates the office, making it an individual office within the Department of Commerce, with an Undersecretary reporting directly to the Secretary of Commerce. Additionally, it directs a study on transferring NOAA’s work on endangered species and marine mammal protection to the Department of the Interior, which has extensive expertise in this area.

“Commercial space is a burgeoning industry that is crucial to our economic and global competitiveness,” Lucas said. “Elevating its place within the Department of Commerce will help us better support this crucial sector of our economy. Ultimately, the NOAA Organic Act helps us make the best possible use of taxpayer dollars to support American industries, conserve our resources, and predict our weather. I’m eager to begin moving this bill forward.”

The full discussion draft is available here.

For more information on the bill, read a Section-by-Section Summary and an Executive Summary