Federal Personnel:

Issues on the Need for NOAA's Commissioned Corps

GGD-97-10: Published: Oct 31, 1996. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the operations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Commissioned Corps, focusing on: (1) whether there continues to be a need for a commissioned corps with military-like pay, allowances, and benefits; and (2) what the costs would be if federal civilian employees performed the Corps' functions.

GAO found that: (1) the NOAA Corps carries out civilian, rather than military, functions; (2) Corps officers operate and manage NOAA research and survey ships that collect the data needed to support fishery management plans, oceanographic and climate research, and hydrographic surveys; (3) Corps officers' entitlement to military ranks and military-like compensation was an outgrowth of their temporary assignments to the armed forces during World Wars I and II; (4) the Department of Defense's war mobilization plans envision no role for the Corps in the future; (5) Corps officers are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice; (6) the government would realize estimated net savings of $661,000 by converting the Corps to civilian status; and (7) a general downsizing in the Department of Commerce reduced the number of Corps officers to 332 as of July 1996, with a goal of 285 officers by 2000.

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