Craig McLean selected as Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

“If you want to move a barge, and you kick it – you’ll just hurt your foot. But if you lean against it, pretty soon it has to move your way.” – Joseph O. Fletcher


Joe Fletcher, former NOAA OAR Assistant Administrator, would certainly have cheered yesterday’s appointment of Craig N. McLean as his latest successor in that important role. Joe was former Air Force. He flew B24’s[1] in World War II, landed on the North Pole by plane in the 1950’s and accomplished much more. He’d have approved of Craig’s nearly-25-years of duty in the NOAA Commissioned Officer’s Corps, the smallest of the Nation’s seven uniformed services. He’d have been interested in Craig’s founding of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, and impressed by his service across several NOAA Line Offices in different roles in succeeding years. He’d cheer Craig’s background in marine resource law and management.

Joe would have especially admired Craig’s leadership of OAR for more than one extended stint in an acting capacity. No stranger to such interim roles himself, Joe knew better than most that to hold such positions in an “acting” status was in many ways more difficult than being the permanent incumbent. Adding all this up, he’d have seen in Craig someone adept at “leaning against the barge” of a bureaucracy such as a federal agency or a major corporation and getting things done.

As NOAA Assistant Administrator for OAR, Craig McLean will bear responsibility for guiding innovation and integration across NOAA’s research enterprise. A key element will be his ability to work with his peers – the other NOAA AA’s and their respective service line components – and with NOAA Administrator Sullivan, Chief Scientist Rick Spinrad and others in the NOAA front office. One major dimension currently focusing the minds of this leadership: R2O – seeing that scientific advance is harnessed to benefit and serve society.

Congratulations both to Craig McLean and NOAA on this appointment – and continuing best wishes.


[1] The same stubborn, nearly uncontrollable bombers described by Laura Hillenbrand in her magnificent book Unbroken (about the life of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, and recently made into a movie by Angelina Jolie).

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