The Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) is a bureau within the United States Department of State. The mission of OES is to lead U.S. diplomacy on global environmental, scientific, and health issues, and to advance the President’s environmental, scientific, and health priorities. OES works to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, to ensure the safety of food and drugs, and to promote the peaceful use of the world’s oceans and other shared natural resources. OES also works to ensure that the United States is represented and engaged in international environmental, scientific, and health organizations, and to promote U.S. leadership in international environmental, scientific, and health policy.

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Bureau within the United States Department of State
  • Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary
  • Jonathan J. Moore, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
  • Melissa J. Kehoe, Senior Advisor
  • John Thompson, Ph.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment
  • Jonathan Margolis, Ph.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, Technology, Space, and Health
Parent department U.S. Department of State Website Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

The Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) is a functional bureau within the United States Department of State. The Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs coordinates a suite of portfolios related to oceans, environmental, polar, scientific, fisheries, wildlife, conservation, and natural resource and health affairs that affect U.S. foreign policy interests. The Assistant Secretary reports to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.

Overview

The bureau is headed by the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. There has been no Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary since Kerri-Ann Jones resigned in April 2014. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat currently performs the non-exclusive duties of the office as Senior Bureau Official.

OES org chart, December 2018

The Oceans, Fisheries, and Polar Affairs’ directorate has two offices dedicated to international oceans issues. The Office of Marine Conservation focuses on international fisheries matters and related problems, and the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs has primary responsibility for international ocean law and policy, marine pollution, marine mammals, polar affairs, maritime boundaries, and marine science. Deputy Assistant Secretary Benjamin Purser III has led the directorate since September 2020.

The Environment directorate deals with environmental issues, including environmental aspects of international trade and safeguarding hazardous materials requiring multilateral agreements within the Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Affairs. The Office of Conservation and Water develops U.S. foreign policy approaches to conserving and managing the world ecosystems and to transboundary water issues. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary John Thompson, Ph.D. has led the directorate since October 2019.

The Health, Space and Science directorate includes the Office of International Health Affairs which works with U.S. Government agencies to facilitate policy-making regarding international bioterrorism, infectious disease, surveillance and response, environmental health, and health in post-conflict situations. The Office of Space and Advanced Technology handles issues arising from our exploration of space to assure global security regarding this new frontier, and the Office of Science & Technology (S&T) Cooperation promotes the interests of the U.S. science and technology communities in the international policy arena, negotiates framework and other S&T agreements, manages the Department’s Embassy Science fellows program, and takes a leading role in representing U.S. science and technology in multilateral international organizations, such as UNESCO and other UN organizations, APEC, OECD and others. The Health, Space and Science Directorate has been led Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Jonathan Margolis, Ph.D., since 2011.

President Donald Trump nominated Andrew Lawler to be Assistant Secretary of the bureau of September 8., but the Senate returned the nomination to the President at the close of the 116th Congress and he was not re-nominated. President Joe Biden has nominated Monica Medina for the role; if confirmed she would be the first Assistant Secretary since Kerri-Ann Jones resigned in April 2014.

History

The Department of State Appropriations Authorization Act became law in October 1973, which led to the establishment of the bureau in 1974. The new bureau assumed responsibility for the negotiation of international environmental and natural resource agreements and treaties with other states. The bureau was created by consolidating the duties of several offices.

  • the Office of International Scientific and Technological Affairs;
  • the Office of Special Assistant to the Secretary of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Coordinator of Ocean Affairs;
  • the Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Population Matters; and
  • the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Environmental Affairs.

The bureau has been led by distinguished foreign service officers like Career Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Ambassador Judy Garber, as well as public servants like Ambassador (retired) John Negroponte.

Diplomatic highlights

The bureau played a major role negotiating 14 multilateral fisheries treaties since the 1980s and the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its annexes.

Views of the U.S.-Canada fourth joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in August and September 2011.

It played a leading role in the creation of the Arctic Council and facilitated its meetings until a permanent secretariat was established in. It helped organize the Our Ocean conference in June 2014 that continues to be held annually and helped bring the Agreement on Port State Measures into force into 2016.

International Space Station

OES has negotiated more than 30 bilateral and multilateral science and technology agreements that promote sustainable development, women in science, and global security. OES and NASA worked together to negotiate intergovernmental agreements that govern the ownership and use of the International Space Station.

References

External links

Deputy Secretary of State and
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
U.S. Department of State official seal.svg
Under Secretary for
Political Affairs
Under Secretary for
Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Under Secretary for
Arms Control and International Security
Under Secretary for
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Under Secretary for
Management
Under Secretary for
Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Bureaus/Offices
reporting directly to the Secretary


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