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New London - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is moving in with the U.S. Coast Guard at Fort Trumbull so the two agencies can share resources and work more closely together on the Arctic and other issues.
"They have a large maritime role just like we do, and to not leverage each other in these days, with the budget realities we face, would be crazy," said Capt. Alan Arsenault, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center. "They have capabilities we need and vice versa. The bottom line is, it's the right thing to do because we're both federal organizations and there are some synergies with the existing work we're doing."
A team from the RDC and from NOAA tested their technologies for the Arctic region north of Alaska in September, during Arctic Shield 2013.
Together, they have been trying to find the Revenue Cutter Bear, which sank 90 miles south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, in 1963, and NOAA's officer training program is now at the Coast Guard Academy.
A NOAA navigation response team of three people and their equipment will move into the RDC as soon as a memorandum of understanding is signed, which Arsenault expects to happen by the end of the year. The team members, who are experts in underwater acoustics, open up commercial waterways when there is a natural disaster in the Northeast.
NOAA will keep a 30-foot boat for conducting hydrographic surveys at Coast Guard Station New London.
The team was at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in Old Lyme, but the department needed more office space. Since moving out in July, the team has been working out of the New London home of the officer in charge, said Cmdr. John Caskey, the school chief of the NOAA Corps Officer Training Center in New London.
"Having a physical presence here at the academy and now at the RDC is just going to increase those future collaborations and synergies," Caskey said.
The RDC also recently agreed to help the Marine Exchange of Alaska refine and expand its Automatic Identification Systems to show where ships are in the Arctic and transmit data to those ships. The exchange is a nonprofit maritime organization that works to ensure safe, efficient and environmentally responsible maritime operations.
The center is providing scientific expertise, not financial resources. Arsenault said he envisions NOAA working on this project, too.
The RDC is on the third and fourth floors at 1 Chelsea St. It is leasing space on the first floor to open a new center of expertise for modeling and simulation.
Arsenault said he hopes to open it around March, and he needed the space on the first floor for the information technology infrastructure. No additional personnel will be assigned to the unit.
The modeling and simulation analysis will help answer questions from program managers and operational commanders, such as how big the fleet should be and how assets should best be positioned.
"Our mission is certainly growing, between the modeling and simulation mission for the Coast Guard and unmanned systems. The center of gravity for unmanned systems in the Coast Guard is right here, whether it's air, surface or underwater," Arsenault said. "And then the whole Arctic world, we're a focal point for that, too."
Arsenault said it is an exciting time for the unit, but also a challenging one because of the cuts to federal spending.
"We certainly feel wanted," he said. "Our services are extremely wanted these days, and that's a good thing."