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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 12, 1998


To help increase our understanding of marine life, and to enhance weather forecasting and climate change research, and identify valuable ocean resources, Vice President Gore is announcing the declassification and release of secret and restricted Navy data. The Department of Defense also will produce computer-based nautical charts replacing the paper charts used by mariners for centuries -- a significant advance in marine safety.

Declassifying Secret Data. In support of its military missions, the U.S. Navy has long gathered vast amounts of ocean data. Much of this data is of important scientific and commercial value. It can be used to track the migration of fish and marine mammals, uncover illegal fishing activities, forecast underwater earthquakes and tsunamis (tidal waves), and understand long-term climate patterns. In response to the Environmental Task Force launched by Vice President Gore while in the U.S. Senate, the Navy is reviewing and releasing large quantities of data:

       The Navy has signed an agreement with a private foundation to 
     create a mechanism to declassify secret data from the Sound 
     Surveillance Systems, an array of underwater listening devices 
     used to hunt submarines. The acoustical data can be used to track 
     whale migrations, predict natural catastrophes and support climate 
     change research.

      The Navy also is releasing data on ocean temperature and salinity
     levels collected by Navy submarines on patrol under the Arctic ice
     cap. Combined with declassified data from other oceans released by 
     the Navy in recent years, this new information completes a global 
     data set that will be a valuable tool in researching long-term 
     climate change.

Computer-Age Nautical Charts. Over the next five years, the Defense Department's National Imagery and Mapping Agency will prepare for military use purposes a series of computer-based charts for most of the world's oceans and coastal waters. Digital Nautical Charts covering virtually all areas of commercial shipping activity worldwide will be available by 2002.

Used in conjunction with the Defense Department's Global Positioning System, this new technology is considered by many the greatest advance in safety at the sea since the introduction of radar. It will allow mariners to move cargo more efficiently through ports worldwide while minimizing the risk of collision and environmental harm.

Supercomputer Weather Forecasts. The Navy employs one of the nation's ten largest supercomputers to provide highly accurate and localized forecasts of battleground weather conditions. Under a new agreement, the Navy will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess whether these techniques can be used to improve the prediction of severe weather over the United States.