National Ocean Service

The National Ocean Service (NOS) is an office within the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is responsible for preserving and enhancing the nation's coastal resources and ecosystems along the 95,000 miles (153,000 km) of shoreline bordering 3,500,000 square miles (9,100,000 km2) of coastal, Great Lakes, and ocean waters. Its mission is to "provide science-based solutions through collaborative partnerships to address evolving economic, environmental, and social pressures on our oceans and coasts." The office works closely with many partnered agencies to ensure that ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. National Ocean Service scientists, natural resource managers, and specialists work to ensure safe and efficient marine transportation, promote innovative solutions for the protection of coastal communities, and to conserve marine and coastal places. It is a scientific and technical organization of approximately 1,700 scientists, natural resource managers, and specialists in many different fields. The National Ocean Service was previously known as the National Ocean Survey until it was renamed in 1983.[5]

National Ocean Service
National Ocean Survey (1970–1983)
National Ocean Service (1983–present)
Agency overview
FormedOctober 9, 1970
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
Headquarters1305 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
38°59′30″N 77°01′48″W
Employees1,259 (FY 2012)[1]
Annual budgetUS$559.6 million (FY 2012)[2]
Agency executive
  • Nicole LeBoeuf[3][4], Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service
Parent agencyNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


As one of six NOAA Line Offices, NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) observes, studies, and manages the nation's coastal and marine resources. NOS measures and predicts coastal and ocean phenomena, protects large areas of the oceans, works to ensure safe navigation, and provides tools and information to protect and restore coastal and marine resources. NOAA's National Ocean Service is composed of seven programs and two staff offices.

Program offices

Staff offices

  • Integrated Ocean Observing System Program (IOOS)[13]
  • Management and Budget Office (MBO)[14]

Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services

The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) is a source for water-level and current measurements that support safe and efficient maritime commerce, sound coastal management, and recreation.[6] CO-OPS is composed of four divisions:

Field Operations Division

The Field Operations Division (FOD) operates and maintains all oceanographic and Great Lakes observing systems required to meet CO-OPS' mission objectives. The Division ensures the continuous operations of navigation and other real-time observing systems needed to support the protection of life and property. FOD also operates the Ocean Systems Test and Evaluation Facility (OSTEF) in order to support Requirements and Development Division (RDD), and Information Systems Division (ISD) development efforts. FOD operates equipment to test and evaluate new observing systems and software modules developed to support NOS mission objectives. The Division: installs, documents, operates and maintains CO-OPS measurement systems (e.g., NWLON, PORTS); conducts field reconnaissance and geodetic operations to include the establishment, leveling, documentation, and inspection of NOS benchmarks; and provides training in the installation, operation and maintenance of CO-OPS observing equipment.

Oceanographic Division

The Oceanographic Division ensures the quality of all data collected by CO-OPS, and produces/disseminates operational products from this data stream. The Division monitors the performance of all CO-OPS observing systems and reports discrepancies to appropriate Center personnel. The Division performs operational data quality control/data analysis; produces oceanographic products; manages the content of CO-OPS data/product delivery systems; develops web page services; distributes real-time data to CO-OPS customers; produces/distributes CD-ROM products; provides information for matters such as litigation and boundary disputes (e.g., certified water level and benchmark information); provides technical assistance to customers regarding the use of CO-OPS products and services; designs new products and services to meet user needs, and maintains customer lists, billing information and accounting procedures to ensure the accurate accounting of revenues collected through user fees.

Engineering Division

The Engineering Division establishes observation and analysis requirements for CO-OPS based on the assessment of user/customer needs. The Division also manages the Ocean Systems Test and Evaluation Program (OSTEP) and its associated test facilities. The Division develops new oceanographic measurement systems and techniques to improve the safety of marine navigation. The Division: develops and issues standard operating procedures, project instructions, and manuals, to guide the operation and maintenance of CO-OPS oceanographic and meteorological measurement systems; prepares measurement requirements (based on tidal zoning) for hydrographic or photogrammetric field surveys, and to support other NOS requirements needs for water level and current information; prepares and monitors interagency agreements, technology transfer agreements and work plans; prepares and administers contracts; provides technical assistance and guidance to other countries, agencies, and the public in the establishment and operation of water level and current measurement stations; and develops/integrates measurement and telemetry systems needed to support CO-OPS activities.

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)[15] provides research, scientific information and tools to help balance the nation's ecological, social and economic goals. The research and tools provided are central to addressing coastal issues raised in legislation and NOAA's priorities.[7] NCCOS was formed within the National Ocean Service (NOS) in March 1999 as the focal point for coastal ocean science. Research areas and strategy were selected in response to Federal legislation, stakeholder input, and in concert with scientific expertise and capabilities.

Office of Coast Survey

Provides navigation products and services that ensure safe and efficient maritime commerce on America's oceans and coastal waters, and in the Great Lakes.[8] OCS consists of the following offices:

  • Marine Chart Division
  • Hydrographic Surveys Division
  • Navigation Services Division
  • Coast Survey Development Lab

Office for Coastal Management

Established in 2014 when NOAA combined two offices: the Coastal Services Center and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. In addition to implementing specific initiatives, a top priority for NOAA's Office for Coastal Management is to unify efforts to make communities more resilient. Many organizations are involved, including the private sector, nonprofits, the scientific community, and all levels of government. The Office for Coastal Management works to be a unifying force in these efforts, providing unbiased NOAA data and tools and providing opportunities for the community to come together to define common goals and find ways to work smarter by working together. Issues run the gamut from protecting endangered species to erosion to generating better building codes for storm-resistant buildings.[9] The OCM has four programs:

Coastal Zone Management

The National Coastal Zone Management Program comprehensively addresses the nation's coastal issues through a voluntary partnership between the federal government and coastal and Great Lakes states and territories. Authorized by the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, the program provides the basis for protecting, restoring, and responsibly developing coastal communities and resources. Currently 34 coastal states participate. While state partners must follow basic requirements, the program also gives states the flexibility to design unique programs that best address their coastal challenges and regulations.[16]

Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP)

NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is a cross-cutting program that brings together expertise from a wide array of NOAA programs and offices in the National Ocean Service (NOS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). The CRCP was established in 2000 to help fulfill NOAA's responsibilities under the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 (CRCA) and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (established by Presidential Executive Order 13089 on Coral Reef Protection). The mission of the CRCP is to protect, conserve, and restore coral reef resources by maintaining healthy ecosystem function. CRCP focuses on four main pillars of work: increase resilience to climate change, reduce land-based sources of pollution, improve fisheries' sustainability, and restore viable coral populations. In strong partnership with local managers, CRCP addresses strategic coral reef management needs in a targeted, cost-effective, and efficient manner.

CRCP funds and equips reef conservation activities by NOAA and its partners in the seven U.S. states and jurisdictions containing coral reefs (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands), uninhabited islands including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Pacific Remote Island Areas, and the Pacific Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau).[17] CRCP supports multiple cross-cutting activities and associated products including the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program[18] and Coral Reef Watch.[19]

Digital Coast

This NOAA-sponsored website is focused on helping communities address coastal issues and has become one of the most-used resources in the coastal management community.[20]

National Estuarine Research Reserves

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 coastal sites[21] designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners.[22]

Office of National Geodetic Survey

The Office of National Geodetic Survey (NGS) provides the framework for all positioning activities in the nation. The foundational elements - latitude, longitude, elevation, shoreline information and their changes over time - contribute to informed decision making and impact a wide range of important activities including mapping and charting, navigation, flood risk determination, transportation, land use and ecosystem management. NGS' authoritative spatial data, models, and tools are vital for the protection and management of natural and manmade resources and support the economic prosperity and environmental health of the nation.[10] The NGS consists of six divisions:

  • Geodetic Services: provides a direct relationship between NGS and its customers through the state advisor program, geodetic equipment testing and evaluation, product evaluation, marketing, distribution, and various training programs.
  • Spatial Reference Systems: maintains the Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network and plans, coordinates and provides technical guidance for geodetic field projects and products required to preserve and develop the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS).
  • Remote Sensing: involves all aspects of airport charting and shoreline mapping using traditional methods while exploring more efficient technologies to complement current practices.[23]
  • Observations & Analysis: conducts geodetic surveys to support the National Spatial Reference System, the production of airport obstruction charts, the location of aeronautical aids to navigation, and the production of coastal maps, charts, and special products in the coastal zone. The Division also conducts field surveys required to support photogrammetric and hydrographic surveys.
  • Systems Development: administers the central processing units, disk and storage systems, telecommunications and network systems, and peripheral input and output systems for NGS. The Division also researches, designs, develops, implements, and conveys the operational use of computer-assisted systems for the acquisition, reduction, analyses, display, and transmission of geodetic, photogrammetric, and remote sensing source data.
  • Geosciences Research: coordinates the research, development and management of new geodetic data products. The Division also designs and programs scientific and geodetic software applications and procedures.[24]

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments.[11] These monuments are:

Office of Response and Restoration

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) is a center of expertise in preparing for, evaluating, and responding to threats to coastal environments, including oil and chemical spills, releases from hazardous waste sites, and marine debris. To fulfill its mission of protecting and restoring NOAA trust resources, the Office of Response and Restoration:[12]

  • Provides scientific and technical support to prepare for and respond to oil and chemical releases.
  • Determines damage to natural resources from these releases.
  • Protects and restores marine and coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs.
  • Works with communities to address critical local and regional coastal challenges.

OR&R has three divisions:

Emergency Response Division

The Emergency Response Division (ERD) of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific expertise to support an incident response. Under the National Contingency Plan, NOAA has responsibility for providing scientific support to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) for oil and hazardous material spills. To support this mandate, ERD provides 24-hour, 7 day a week response to spill events. Find out more about ERD's work with oil and chemical spills.[27]

Assessment and Restoration Division

The Assessment and Restoration Division (ARD), formerly Coastal Protection and Restoration Division (CPRD), is responsible for evaluating and restoring coastal and estuarine habitats damaged by hazardous waste releases, oil spills, and vessel groundings. To fully accomplish this mission, ARD joined with NOAA's General Counsel for Natural Resources and Office of Habitat Conservation to create the Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program (DARRP). This successful NOAA partnership tackles the challenges of environmental damages to ensure marine natural resources are protected and restored. The Assessment and Restoration Division comprises NOAA biologists, toxicologists, ecologists, policy analysts, information specialists, attorneys, geologists, environmental engineers, and economists. Together, they help assess ecological risk and environmental and economic injury from contamination and ship groundings. In particular, ARD has developed specific expertise in aquatic risk assessment techniques, contaminated sediment issues, and data interpretation.[28]

The ARD publishes the Screening Quick Reference Tables (SQuiRT cards), for rapid evaluation of water, sediment and soil contamination.[29]

Marine Debris Division

Since 2005, the NOAA Marine Debris Program has served as a centralized program within NOAA, coordinating, strengthening, and promoting marine debris activities within the agency and among its partners and the public. The NOAA Marine Debris Program undertakes national and international efforts focused on researching, reducing, and preventing debris in the marine environment. The program continues to support and work closely with various partners across the U.S. to fulfill its mission.[30]

Integrated Ocean Observing System

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is a national-regional partnership working to understand and predict coastal events - such as storms, wave heights, and sea level change.[13][31]


The National Ocean Service traces its history to 1807, when the Survey of the Coast was created as the U.S. Government's first scientific agency.[32][33][5] The agency was renamed the United States Coast Survey in 1836 and the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1878.[32][33][5] On October 3, 1970, when the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) was abolished and replaced by NOAA, the Coast and Geodetic Survey was abolished as well as it merged with other government scientific agencies to form NOAA.[32][33][5] The Coast and Geodetic Survey′s organizational existence lingered until October 9, 1970, when its successor agency within NOAA, the National Ocean Survey, took over its mission, assets, personnel, and responsibilities.[5] Under the National Ocean Survey, the Office of Coast Survey took over the Coast and Geodetic Survey′s hydrographic survey duties and its geodetic responsibilities were transferred to the National Geodetic Survey. The Coast and Geodetic Survey's fleet of survey ships temporarily came under the direct control of the National Ocean Survey, although via a phased process during 1972 and 1973 they merged with ships temporarily assigned to NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and ships formerly assigned to ESSA′s Environmental Research Laboratories to form a consolidated and unified NOAA fleet operated by the National Ocean Survey's Office of Fleet Operations.[34] As a reflection of its diversifying responsibilities and assignments, the National Ocean Survey was renamed the National Ocean Service in 1983.[5]

See also

  • Nancy Foster, former director of the National Ocean Service.


  1. "National Ocean Service FY12" (PDF).
  2. "FY 2012 NOS President's Budget Request" (PDF).
  3. "Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service".
  4. "LeBoeuf Tapped as director of NOAA's National Ocean Service, Marine Technology News".
  5. Archives Catalog: Department of Commerce. Coast and Geodetic Survey. 1913-7/13/1965 Organization Authority Record Accessed 29 October 2022
  6. Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS)
  7. NCCOS home page
  8. OCS Home Page
  9. Office for Coastal Management Home Page
  10. NGS Home Page
  11. ONMS Home Page
  12. OR&R Home Page
  13. "NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System". Archived from the original on 2015-11-27. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  14. "National Ocean Service Program and Staff Offices".
  15. "About". NCCOS Coastal Science Website. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  16. Coastal Zone Management
  17. Coral Reef Conservation Program
  18. National Coral Reef Monitoring Program
  19. NOAA Coral Reef Watch
  20. Digital Coast
  21. "About". NERRA. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  22. "National Estuarine Research Reserve". Archived from the original on 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  23. "Remote Sensing Division".
  24. NGS Geosciences Research Division
  25. "Mallows Bay-Potomac River | National Marine Sanctuaries".
  26. "Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary | Office of National Marine Sanctuaries". Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  27. Emergency Response Division
  28. Assessment and Restoration Division
  29. "SQuiRT Cards". NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  30. Marine Debris Program
  31. Wilkin, John; Rosenfeld, Leslie; Allen, Arthur; Baltes, Rebecca; Baptista, Antonio; He, Ruoying; Hogan, Patrick; Kurapov, Alexander; Mehra, Avichal; Quintrell, Josie; Schwab, David (2017-04-03). "Advancing coastal ocean modelling, analysis, and prediction for the US Integrated Ocean Observing System". Journal of Operational Oceanography. 10 (2): 115–126. doi:10.1080/1755876X.2017.1322026. hdl:1912/9234. ISSN 1755-876X. S2CID 31019349.
  32. NOAA, Coast and Geodetic Survey Heritage Archived December 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  33. NOAA History: NOAA Legacy Timeline 1807–1899
  34. AFSC Historical Corner - Timeline of Significant Events Retrieved August 23, 2018
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