- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A joint training program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard will play an important role in the response of the agencies to emergencies, NOAA’s administrator says.

Kathryn Sullivan attended the first joint graduation ceremony Wednesday of Coast Guard and NOAA officers who trained together in a 17-week program at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. She said the joint training will help quickly establish the high level of trust that plays an important role in responding effectively and rapidly to severe events.

NOAA and the Coast Guard often work together. They both responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig explosion in 2010 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“In the midst of a fiery oil spill is the wrong time to be exchanging a business card and just getting to know each other and figure out how do you work together,” Sullivan said. “We will see that dividend as this program goes forward.”

The training also is timely in an era of tight budgets and growing demands as the agencies take on more responsibilities in the Arctic and elsewhere, Sullivan said.

In the Arctic, the demand has grown for more information about shipping lanes, fishing supplies and oil development as ice recedes; NOAA also faces demands for longer lead times related to severe weather such as tornadoes, assessing fish stocks and dealing with droughts, she said.

Beyond major emergencies, the officers are routinely involved in challenging operations that can put them in harm’s way and the two agencies increasingly interact, Sullivan said.

“Broader, deeper mutual understanding and mutual awareness is only going to help us pursue those missions more effectively, more cost efficiently,” Sullivan said. “This mutual awareness, this mutual understanding, this personal experience with each other will accelerate all that.”

Forty Coast Guard officers and 12 NOAA officers received their commissions at the event.

The joint training began in 2012, but Wednesday’s ceremony marked the first time a joint graduation was held. NOAA officers previously had trained at Kings Point Maritime Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., but a school there closed.