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New Names and Job Descriptions at NOAA

By Ed O'Keefe

How often does a new boss come into your agency and change job titles and job descriptions? About every four to eight years, right?

It's happening at NOAA, where Administrator Jane Lubchenco is redrawing the current org chart and renaming, recasting and adding whole new senior political positions.

The changes will not adversely impact rank-and-file bargaining unit employees or the traditional reporting structure, Lubchenco said in a memo to staffers last week, and should help the agency refocus on its three main priorities: conservation and management; environmental observation and prediction; and research and education.

The details:


-- A principal deputy under secretary for oceans and atmosphere will be responsible for day-to-day operations at agency headquarters in Washington. A Senior Executive Service-level appointee.

-- An assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction will oversee the National Weather Service and all other programs and equipment related to weather and water. A presidential appointee requiring Senate confirmation.

-- A deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries will oversee international fishery negotiations and report to the assistant secretary for conservation and management. This Senior Executive Service-level appointee will not require Senate confirmation.


The Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere becomes... the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations. Same job as before.

The Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere becomes... the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management. Requires a presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. This person "will drive policy and program direction" for ocean resource management, coastal management, and protected resources.


The reestablished NOAA chief scientist will "drive policy and program direction for science and technology priorities," according to the memo. This is a presidential appointee requiring Senate confirmation.

A new Office of Policy will report to the chief of staff and include the existing Program Coordination Office. It will also manage "the internal NOAA executive decision-making process," the memo said.

Read the memo below and leave your thoughts in the comments section.


From: "Dr. Jane Lubchenco"
Date: October 8, 2009 11:59:31 AM AKDT
Subject: NOAA to Realign Headquarters Leadership

October 8, 2009

At the beginning of this administration, the president's transition team looked closely at how NOAA conducts everyday business. These consultations engaged many NOAA leaders and staff, as well as officials in the Department of Commerce. It was no surprise the team found that NOAA has an outstanding work force. However, they also recognized that our headquarters leadership structure is not aligned effectively to keep pace with the many changes our agency has experienced through the years, nor with the complex environmental, economic and social challenges facing our nation and the ever-growing demands for NOAA's science, service and stewardship missions.

Our agency budget, roughly $250 million in 1970, has grown to about $4.5 billion. Yet, the administrative structure has changed little since 1970. We lack a sufficient number of senior-level administration officials to manage our resources and effectively oversee headquarters functions.

I'm pleased to announce that, for first time since 1970, we are proposing to realign and enhance our headquarters leadership structure. The addition of senior-level political appointees and the redefinition of some existing roles will streamline decision-making at headquarters, strengthen guidance to the agency, improve accountability, and more clearly outline authority and responsibilities among senior NOAA leadership.

The proposed headquarters alignment establishes a clear plan for oversight of NOAA's three main functions, consistent with the principle of ecosystem-based management: (1) Conservation and Management; (2) Environmental Observation and Prediction; and (3) Research and Education. By implementing this new alignment, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, NOAA will emerge a stronger, smarter and more responsive, science-centered organization.

New Leadership Structure Summary

Approved by the administration and transmitted to the Congress for approval on Oct. 7, 2009, the proposed alignment will involve a number of structural changes to NOAA's headquarters organizational chart and reporting, including:

Increasing the number of senior-level political appointees from five to seven, in order to provide for improved oversight of, and direction for, NOAA's roughly $4.5 billion budget.
Establishing a Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere as a Senior Executive Service-level appointee who will be responsible for day-to-day oversight of headquarters functions. This position will manage a number of functions that cut across the agency, specifically: Communication and External Affairs; Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs; Federal Coordinator for Meteorology; Education; International Affairs; and Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships.
Renaming the Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere as the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations. This position will continue to manage NOAA operations across the agency including oversight of line offices and supervision over corporate offices, specifically: Acquisition and Grants; Chief Administrative Officer; Chief Financial Officer; Chief Information Officer and High Performance Computing; Marine and Aviation Operations; Program Analysis and Evaluation; and Workforce Management.
Renaming the Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere as the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management. This position, which requires a presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, will drive policy and program direction for NOAA's stewardship responsibilities, including ocean resource management, coastal management, and protected resources.
Establishing an Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction, to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Assistant Secretary will drive policy and program direction for weather and water, integrated mapping, and observing architecture, including satellites.
Reinstituting and elevating the role of NOAA Chief Scientist, to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. As senior scientist for NOAA, the Chief Scientist will drive policy and program direction for science and technology priorities.
Establishing a Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries, a non-career Senior Executive Service-level appointee charged with international fishery negotiations as specified in the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act, who will report to the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management.
Establishing an Office of Policy that reports to the Chief of Staff. This will include the existing Program Coordination Office, as well as manage the internal NOAA executive decision-making process and its committees, such as the NOAA Executive Panel and the NOAA Executive Council.

I want to emphasize that the day-to-day operations of NOAA line offices and corporate offices will proceed as usual. Further, the headquarters alignment will not adversely affect the reporting relationships or conditions of employment of any bargaining unit employees.

I believe the benefits of the new headquarters alignment are significant. It will better enable NOAA's fulfillment of key priorities for the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce, principally those related to climate science and services, the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, and the president's science and technology initiatives.

On a practical note, the addition of a second Assistant Secretary and a Principal Deputy Under Secretary will also allow me to take a more active role in many of our high priority programs and objectives, including the NPOESS program and implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I will be able to focus more productively on our primary strategic aims, develop and sustain our partnerships, create greater support for NOAA among stakeholders, and engage with other federal agencies in pursuit of good government outcomes.

I'm very eager to implement our new leadership structure and excited about the possibility its holds for enhancing our delivery of world-class science and services to the nation. I'll have more news and details in the coming weeks and months as we complete our consultations with the Congress and as we welcome new appointees to our senior leadership team.


Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 12, 2009; 11:54 AM ET
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This is the typical government "change"--reorganize, rename, and add another job or two without ever addressing the actual processes, which may be wasteful and ineffective. Much ado about nothing.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | October 13, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

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