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Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (ret.) (1927 – 2012) – Champion of Ocean Policy

We note with much regret the passing of Admiral James D. Watkins on Thursday.

We note with much regret the passing of Admiral James D. Watkins on Thursday.  ADM Watkins served our Nation with distinction for more than half a century. His long and productive Navy career culminated with his term as Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s highest uniformed position. A man of many talents, ADM Watkins went on to serve as Secretary of Energy during the George H.W. Bush administration after having led the Presidential Commission on HIV/AIDS.

We are particularly grateful for ADM Watkins’ service to the Nation in the oceans arena.  ADM Watkins served as President of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) during the 1990s.  From there he founded the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) to focus on the national need for ocean education, ocean science, and ocean policy.  In 2007, CORE and JOI merged to form the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL), which now continues to pursue ADM Watkins’ vision. After his retirement from CORE in 2001, ADM Watkins continued to apply his considerable talents in the oceans arena by chairing the George W. Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the final report of which provided much of the foundation for our current National Ocean Policy. 

Upon completion of the Commission’s work in 2004, ADM Watkins went on to form the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI) in partnership with the leadership of the Pew Oceans Commission.  This bipartisan effort was designed in part to maintain momentum towards a formal ocean policy, a goal that was recently brought to fruition by President Obama’s 2010 Executive Order 13547, Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.

ADM Watkins’ work in the oceans arena carries on through the ongoing efforts of many groups and individuals throughout the Nation. For that legacy, we are most grateful.

John P. Holdren and Nancy Sutley are co-chairs of the National Ocean Council.