Kathryn Sullivan confirmed as NOAA administrator

Today, the United States Senate confirmed Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. as under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In this capacity, she will serve as the tenth administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s top science agency for climate, oceans, and the atmosphere.

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“With her impressive background as a scientist and astronaut and her excellent record of building bridges between diverse environmental stakeholder communities and federal policymakers, Kathy brings a great blend of scientific rigor, team-building skills, and strategic sensibility to the important job of NOAA administrator,” said John P. Holdren, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan was Senate confirmed as the NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere on March 6, 2014. (Credit NOAA)

With a budget of $4.7 billion, and more than 12,000 employees in every U.S. state and locations around the world, NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

“NOAA provides the environmental intelligence that helps citizens, businesses, and governments make smart choices. Mission first, people always — this is my commitment to the American people and to the NOAA workforce,” said Sullivan. “I’m incredibly proud of our people, and it's an honor to be at the helm.”

Sullivan assumed the role of acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator in February 2013. She had been serving as assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy NOAA administrator, as well as performing the duties as the agency's chief scientist.

"I am excited for Kathy and for the national ocean community. I've known her for more than 20 years starting when she was a senior U.S. Naval Reserve Officer working in science and technology," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, president emeritus of Monmouth University and member of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. "Kathy knows the science, her heart and being are linked in exploration, and she is no stranger to the realities of working effectively in Washington."

Sullivan’s expertise spans the frontiers of space and sea. An accomplished oceanographer, she was appointed NOAA’s chief scientist in 1993, where she oversaw a research and technology portfolio that included fisheries biology, climate change, satellite instrumentation and marine biodiversity.

Following her first appointment at NOAA, she served a decade as president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, one of the nation's leading science museums. She was then the inaugural director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.

Sullivan was one of the first six women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and holds the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space. She flew on three shuttle missions during her 15-year tenure, including the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. Sullivan has also served on the National Science Board (2004-2010) and as an oceanographer in the U.S. Navy Reserve (1988-2006).

Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in earth sciences from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a doctorate in geology from Dalhousie University in Canada.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and our other social media channels.

Ciaran Clayton