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Oceanography: the study of ocean physical characteristics (salinity, temperature, etc.), dynamics, chemistry, biology, and geophysics and their influences on surface and underwater operations.

Meteorology: the analysis of atmospheric effects (clouds, winds, moisture, etc.) on airborne and surface systems.

Hydrography and Geospacial Information and Services (GI&S): the measuring and charting of coastal and deep ocean waters, and of their gravity and magnetic variations, to allow safe and effective operation and navigation of forces involved in amphibious, surface, and submarine warfare.

Astrometry: the science of precisely determining the position and motion of the sun, moon, stars, and planets for use in navigation and guidance systems.

Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI): the process of establishing and maintaining the nation's precision time reference - the Master Clock - which uses resonating atoms to measure time to within nearly a billionth of a second per day, and disseminating time for both military and civil use. The U. S. Naval Observatory (reporting to the Oceanographer of the Navy) administers the programs in precise time and astrometry, publishes navigation almanacs, and determines earth orientation in space. These data are essential for navigation and targeting at sea, in the air, and in space.

In late 1995, mindful that the likely focus of future naval operations would be the shallow coastal waters of the world, the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations signed out a new policy for naval oceanography (the first such revision in 10 years). Among other things, it emphasizes that, in addition to deep-water missions, naval oceanographers must master the complicated tangle of problems that make up the science of the littoral, or near-shore areas: tidal pulses, beach profiles, reefs, bars, shallows, shoals, channels, sediment transport, fine-scale hydrography, turbidity, land cover and terrain, dust, traffic, rain rates, river run-off, sub-bottom characteristics, and biologics, as well as the complex weather patterns inherent in any coastal area. Navy's new focus on littoral operations has created a large backlog of high-priority oceanographic, hydrographic, and geophysical survey requirements. To carry out this mission, we employ traditional means (ships, boats, planes), and new technologies (satellite, remote sensors, etc.), while leveraging the resources of other national and international agencies.

Thus, the challenge for today's Navy oceanographers is to gain skill quickly in near-shore environments while maintaining the deep ocean capabilities that took Navy oceanographers the last 50 years to gain. Navy oceanographers are shifting from thinking in scales of hundreds of kilometers and days, to scales of tens of meters and hours.

The sophistication of new high-tech weapons, systems and sensors demands higher resolution environmental data for optimum performance. To provide a real-time assessment of the battle space, Navy oceanographers are developing the capability to sense the environment with smaller remote sensors and assimilate this data quickly to provide the warfighter, with greater spatial and temporal resolution even in denied areas. To accomplish their mission, naval oceanographers draw on the principles of five geophysical disciplines: