NOAA 2004-R837
Contact: Jeanne Kouhastani

NOAA News Releases 2004
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In a formal ceremony today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy marked the transfer of ownership of a former surveillance ship from the Navy to NOAA. The ship will be converted to a NOAA research vessel for exploring deep oceans. The transfer supports the NOAA fleet modernization effort and will save the Navy up to $500,000 otherwise needed to deactivate the vessel. USNS Capable will be converted and renamed. It will be the first vessel devoted exclusively to NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“From the beginning, the transfer of this ship represents a great value to the U.S. taxpayer and when converted, it will provide significant and long-term benefits to ocean exploration and research,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

James E. Connaughton, chair, Council on Environmental Quality, spoke at the transfer ceremony and noted that the planned role of the new exploration vessel is significant for the advancement of oceans research and discovery. Congress established CEQ within the Executive Office of the President as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

Capt. Juan L. Chavez, USN, commander of Military Sealift Command-Pacific, will represent the Navy, and Stephen Hammond, acting director, will represent NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration.

“USNS Capable has done an outstanding job serving the Navy fleet commanders and Military Sealift Command,” said Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III, USN, the commander of Military Sealift Command. “I am confident that the ship will continue to provide excellent service to NOAA in future years.”

The ship, designated as T-AGOS class for general ocean surveillance, will be the ninth vessel transferred by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command to NOAA. Former Navy ships like Capable have helped modernize the NOAA fleet and served as excellent research and operational platforms.

The Navy will transfer $18 million of appropriated funds to NOAA in FY 2005 for conversion. NOAA will develop a plan to equip the ship for ocean mapping, deployment of unmanned submersibles, scientific work in onboard laboratories, and real-time transmission of images and data collected during ocean expeditions. The ship will carry multidisciplinary teams of scientist-explorers to investigate unknown or little known areas of Earth’s oceans for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. For details about the types of missions the ship will support, see

Capable will be renamed through a ship-naming contest offered to students in grades six through 12 nationwide. Participating teams of students will select a name that reflects the spirit of ocean exploration and submit it with a classroom education project that supports and justifies the name selection. Contest details will be provided directly to schools. This will be NOAA’s second such contest to encourage students to learn more about marine science and NOAA.

NOAA’s ocean exploration missions include mapping and characterizing the physical, biological, chemical and archaeological aspects of the ocean; developing a more thorough understanding of ocean dynamics and interactions at new levels; developing and deploying new sensors and systems to regain U.S. leadership in ocean technology; and reaching out to the public to communicate the importance of the oceans.

USNS Capable was originally built during the Cold War to tow an array of underwater listening devices to collect acoustical data on submarines. The ship also carried electronic equipment to process and transmit that data via satellite to shore stations for evaluation. After the Cold War, Capable was modified for a drug interdiction mission. The underwater acoustic array was removed, and an air search radar, integrated display system, sophisticated communications suite and other special mission equipment were installed to detect and monitor suspected drug traffickers.

The NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft is operated, managed, and maintained by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. NMAO includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilians. The NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. The Corps is composed of officers – all scientists or engineers – who provide NOAA with an important blend of operational, management and technical skills that support the agency’s environmental programs at sea, in the air, and ashore.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. To learn more about NOAA, please visit: