By Lt. j.g. Bryan Wagonseller, Naval Ice Center Public Affairs
Top officials from the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard signed a Memorandum of Understanding July 21, reaffirming their support of the National Ice Center (NIC).
The NIC, an interagency office jointly operated by the Navy (Naval Ice Center), NOAA and Coast Guard, provides strategic and tactical ice analyses and other services that aid the navigation of U.S. vessels in ice-infested waters.
“Today’s update to our original working agreement, first signed in 1995, means that the National Ice Center can continue monitoring the waterways for potentially dangerous ice and help guide ships out of harm’s way for the safe, efficient delivery of goods,” said retired Vice Adm. Conrad
C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
“The NIC is a model of interagency cooperation,” said Rear Adm. Steven Tomaszeski, oceanographer/navigator of the Navy. “The Center’s high-quality strategic and tactical ice services support U.S. Navy units at sea and enhance our warfighting capabilities. The synergy between the Navy, NOAA and Coast Guard provides safe navigation for military and commercial shipping along sea lanes, and the international science communities derive great benefit from the polar science and technology, ice analysis and ice-charting products.”
“The Coast Guard is proud to reaffirm its support for the National Ice Center,” said Rear Adm. Dennis Sirois, assistant commandant for Coast Guard Operations. “The free flow of commerce and the demands of securing our nation require constant awareness of threats in the maritime domain, and the National Ice Center plays a critical role in pinpointing and tracking natural obstacles before they become a hazard to navigation.”
Located in Suitland, Md., the NIC uses satellite imagery to monitor lakes and oceans for sea ice movement and developing icebergs and ice sheets. Primary users of the NIC’s products include the Navy submarine force, Military Sealift Command
, Coast Guard icebreaker fleet, NOAA, National Science Foundation, NASA, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force.
The staff of the NIC is currently composed of 39 Navy officer
s and enlisted personnel, 11 Navy civilians, five NOAA civilians, one NOAA Corps officer, one Coast Guard petty officer, and various contract personnel.
In the 1950s, the beginnings of the NIC were established by an interagency agreement between the U.S. Navy Fleet Weather
Central (now known as the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command) and the Weather Bureau (now known as NOAA’s National Weather Service) to maximize weather forecasting resources and reduce duplication of effort.
After USS Nautilus (SSN 571) performed the first submarine crossing of the North Pole in 1958, the need for ice reconnaissance services for maritime navigation was realized, and this interagency was tasked with the responsibility to perform it. Subsequent evolutions of this interagency collaboration occurred with the creation of the Navy/NOAA Joint Ice Center in 1976 and finally culminated with the creation of the NIC in 1995 when the Coast Guard became a partner.