An Oregon State University professor has been tapped by the Biden Administration to head up NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rick Spinrad is an ocean scientist and former administrator at Oregon State. In recent years, he’s been involved with the university’s groundbreaking wave energy testing facility project that’s expected to start construction this summer.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Spinrad would oversee several marine and climate research offices, as well as the National Weather Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency hasn’t had a confirmed administrator since President Obama left office in 2017, after two nominees of President Donald Trump’s failed to garner enough support in the Senate.
President Biden has made climate action a central focus of his administration, and has proposed the largest budget in NOAA’s history. If confirmed, Spinrad would be the third NOAA administrator to be affiliated with Oregon State University.
Prior to his current role at Oregon State University, Spinrad served as NOAA’s top scientist under President Obama and the U.S. representative to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
If confirmed, Spinrad will lead a 12,000-person agency charged with a diverse portfolio that spans daily weather forecasts, climate monitoring, fisheries management and coastal restoration.
In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Eric Schwaab applauded Spinrad’s nomination, saying that NOAA’s workers “couldn’t ask for a better leader to restore scientific integrity and honor the agency’s mission.”
Biden, whose administration has made climate action a central focus, has proposed the largest budget in NOAA’s history — $6.9 billion, a $1.5 billion increase over the 2021 budget allocated by Congress. It remains to be seen whether Congress will agree to the increase.
NPR contributed to this report.