Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) today spoke on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in support of S. 2981, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2020. The legislation will stand to benefit NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations’ expansion on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The bill aligns NOAA Corps’ regulations with the nation’s other uniformed services and improves the recruitment and retention of NOAA Corps Officers, increases parity with other uniformed services with respect to benefits such as family programs, mental health resources, and educational assistance. The legislation also requires the Secretary of Commerce to enter into contracts or the procurement of multi-year charters for hydrographic services survey vessels.
Palazzo is a co-sponsor of the House version of this legislation.
Palazzo delivered the following remarks:
I rise today in support of S. 2981 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2020.
This bicameral and bipartisan legislation aims to improve the smallest uniformed service in our country – the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.
The men and women of the NOAA Corps operate a highly specialized fleet of scientific ships and aircraft, several of which are based in my district on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and along coastlines around the nation. The research conducted on these scientific platforms helps to improve hurricane forecasts, manage healthy and sustainable fisheries such as red snapper, and ensure safe and efficient maritime commerce on America’s waters.
Members of the NOAA Corps are the ones who operate the nine aircraft and 15 vessels in NOAA’s growing fleet. During a hurricane, they deploy on missions into the storm, and immediately after hurricanes they deploy to assess damage and map out debris in the channels to open our ports back up as soon as possible. All these activities are essential to my district and many others, especially this year, where we had back-to-back hurricanes in the Gulf impacting our maritime economy and ecosystems.
NOAA Corps Officers provide essential scientific and operational expertise needed for NOAA to meet its missions every day. Recognizing NOAA’s 50th anniversary and their growing responsibilities, this legislation will help NOAA retain and recruit the most qualified officers and will offer these service members the level of personal and professional support that they deserve.
The 2020 hurricane season confirms that we need to make the right investments so the NOAA Corps can become even better at predicting storms, in turn protecting life and property while helping conserve our fisheries that are vital to our national heritage.
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is crucial that we reauthorize and support the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it.
I yield back.