On 13 January 2012, President Obama proposed a reorganization of the Department of Commerce (DOC). Although much of the emphasis during the announcement of the plan centered on the realignment of several DOC bureaus that focus on small businesses, the President would also like to move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from DOC to the Department of the Interior. Interior is currently home to NOAA’s terrestrial science equivalent, the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Details on the proposed reorganization are scarce, but are expected to be released in the coming months.

President Obama does not currently have the authority to restructure the Executive Branch, although previous Presidents have held this power. The administration has asked Congress to grant the President the authority to consolidate the federal government.

If the reorganization did proceed, it is estimated that the government would save a total of $3 billion. NOAA would become the largest agency within the Department of the Interior. NOAA has been a part of DOC since 1970. The other science agencies currently in Commerce, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Patent Office, would be retained in the new Cabinet department, which will focus on trade and economic development.


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