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March 29, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

Today the Department of Commerce issued a new public communications policy that clearly reaffirms the Department’s commitment to open and transparent public dissemination of scientific research.

This new policy is the result of many hours of staff work, including reviews and comments from managers, scientists and public affairs officers in NOAA. The Department listened to your concerns and incorporated many of your suggestions. I appreciate your participation in this process, and I know that Rich Mills, the Department’s Director of Public Affairs, who played a key role in developing the policy, does so as well. I believe the new departmental order will end any uncertainties about our public treatment of our scientists’ work and will provide clarity for NOAA’s public affairs professionals who work to earn broader public exposure for NOAA’s many achievements. To that end, we are taking steps to ensure that NOAA’s public affairs officers and senior managers fully understand the principles and procedures of the new policy. The policy (which you may review on the Department’s website, www.doc.gov) will take effect in 45 days, to give the Department time to put procedures and training in place.
NOAA has its own media policy, but to ensure that there are no perceived conflicts between the NOAA administrative order and the departmental order just issued, the NOAA order will be rescinded. We are now working on new guidelines to help execute the Department’s public communication policy.

Let me state, once again, that while this policy is new my commitment to open discussion about our science is not. I am proud of our science and our worldwide reputation for excellence, and I believe we should do whatever we can to ensure that the results of our research are widely shared.

Sincerely,

Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
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by the NOAA Information Technology Center/Financial and Administrative Computing Division