Senate passes bill giving NOAA Corp education benefits

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to commission and train officers and creates a education repayment program for the officers.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced S. 1068, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act, which the Senate passed through a unanimous consent agreement. 

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The bill would establish an education loan repayment program in exchange for active duty service. It also maintains the existing percentages of officers in grades of captain, commander and lieutenant commander and requires that they all meet the same physical fitness standards of the Coast Guard.

If the House passes the bill, the NOAA Corp would receive similar education benefits as other military service members. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the bill would have no significant impact on the federal budget because it also generates some revenue from fines levied against individuals who wear the uniform of the NOAA commission officer corps without proper authorization. CBO said the higher education provision would cost less than $200,000 a year if funds were appropriated.