NOAA Legal History

NOAA was established by the President and Congress in 1970 under Reorganization Plan No.4. President Nixon sent the reorganization plan to Congress on July 9, 1970. NOAA was created to serve a national need "...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources..." It became effective on October 3, 1970 under 5 U.S.C. 906.

The establishment of NOAA may be traced back to 1966 with enactment of the Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-454). The Act declared it to be the policy of the United States to: "develop, encourage, and maintain a coordinated, comprehensive, and long-range national program in marine science for the benefit of mankind, to assist in protection of health and property, enhancement of commerce, transportation, and national security, rehabilitation of our commercial fisheries, and increased utilization of these and other resources." The Act created a Commission on Marine Science, Engineering, and Resources. It was comprised of 15 members with experience in different fields of government, academia and industry. This commission would eventually be known as the Stratton Commission, so named for its chairman, Julius A. Stratton, who was also chairman of the Ford Foundation. The commission’s work culminated in a final report, "Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National Action" (known as the Stratton Commission Report) submitted to the President and Congress on January 9, 1969.

The establishment of major parts of NOAA can be traced back to the 1800s, including a Fisheries Commission in 1871, the Weather Bureau in 1870,  and the Survey of the Coast office in 1807 by the visionary President Jefferson. As such, NOAA is the oldest science agency in the United States. The 200th Anniversary of NOAA was thus celebrated in 2007.

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