National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
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NOAA Service Flag
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was created on October 3, 1970, by the merger of a number of scientific agencies within the Department of Commerce, including the nation's oldest such organization, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, founded in 1807 as the Survey of the Coast, as well as the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries from the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers' U.S. Lake Survey. NOAA includes the National Ocean Survey, the National Weather Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and a variety of other agencies. It is staffed in part by a small corps of commissioned officers who hold naval rank and wear Navy-style uniforms as well as a much larger civil service workforce. It operates some 15 ocean-going research vessels, officered by the 265-strong commissioned NOAA Corps and crewed by civil service mariners. The Coast and Geodetic Survey was authorized a distinguishing flag, blue with a red triangle on a white disk, on January 16, 1899. The design was emblematic of the triangulation method used in surveying. The current NOAA service flag, normally displayed at the masthead of the forwardmost mast as a distinctive mark of a NOAA vessel in commission, was adapted from the Coast and Geodetic Survey flag by adding the NOAA emblem, a two-tone blue circle with the silhouette of a seabird in white, on the center. On single-masted vessels, the service flag flies immediately beneath the commission pennant or personal flag of a civilian official or flag officer. NOAA vessels display the national ensign and union jack in the same manner as those of the Navy and Coast Guard, and follow the movements of the senior Navy or Coast Guard vessel if present together in the same port.
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The Administrator of NOAA is concurrently Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, making him the protocol equivalent of a four-star admiral. His flag as Administrator is the same as the service flag with the addition of a white star in each corner. For indoor and parade display, this flag comes in a special 52 by 66 inch size with a golden yellow fringe, cord, and tassels. When displayed from a staff, including in a boat, it is topped by a halberd finial. The Administrator is also entitled to use the flag of an Under Secretary of Commerce.
The Deputy Administrator's position equates to that of an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, making him also of four-star rank. His flag is the same as the Administrator's but with the stars in red instead of white. He is also entitled to a halberd finial.
The chief scientist of NOAA flies a flag similar to that of the Deputy Administrator, but with three stars in a vertical line in the hoist. If the chief scientist is of the civil service grade of GS-17 or above, his flagstaff is topped with a halberd finial; otherwise it is topped by a ball.
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The Director of NOAA Corps Operations is the service's only two-star admiral. Her flag, a triangle flanked by two white stars, was previously that used for director of the Coast and Geodetic Survey prior to that service's amalgamation into NOAA.
Rear Admiral (Lower Half)
The Director of the Atlantic and Pacific Marine Centers is currently the only one-star officer in the NOAA Corps. This flag is the most recent in a series of one-star flags that were first created in 1982 when Congress established the position of commodore admiral in the Navy, Coast Guard, and NOAA Corps. The flag shown reflects the final resolution in 1985 to restore the traditional rank of rear admiral (lower half) but with a one-star rather than two-star rank insignia and flag.
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