CENOTE: Special Panel

CENOTE: Special Panel

Thursday, October 8th


Moderator: Charles Alexander

Moderator: Philip Hoffman

Michael SilahPanelist: RADM Michael Silah
Director, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps | Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

Rear Admiral (RADM) Michael J. Silah serves as the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) and NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), the operational arm of NOAA.
As Director of the NOAA Corps and OMAO, Rear Admiral Silah is responsible for the operation of NOAA’s fleet of research ships and aircraft as well as commissioned NOAA officers and civilian personnel.
He was commissioned into the United States Navy in 1992 and served in Patrol Squadron Nine (VP-9) as the squadron’s safety officer, completing three deployments to Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. He also served in Naval Force Aircraft Test Squadron (FORCE) before transferring to the NOAA Corps in 2002.
Rear Admiral Silah previously served as Commanding Officer of NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center (AOC). Under his command, AOC improved execution to over 90 percent and flew over 6,000 flight hours in support of NOAA missions. His team was recognized with Department of Commerce Silver and Bronze awards, a NOAA Unit Citation, and the Safety Management System Level 3 award–the highest possible distinction. He also led AOC during the relocation from MacDill AFB in Tampa to a new facility in Lakeland, Florida.
Earlier assignments include: Chief of Staff of National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), Chief of Staff of OMAO, and aide-de-camp to the NOAA Administrator. Rear Admiral Silah has flown over 3,000 flight hours in the P-3, including over 1,500 hours as pilot-in-command, over 500 hours of Navy flight test, and nearly 150 hurricane penetrations.
Rear Admiral Silah holds a degree in economics from Duke and an MPA from Harvard. His awards include the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, NOAA Corps Meritorious Service Medal, NOAA Corps Commendation Medals, and NOAA Corps Achievement Medals. He is an active member in the prestigious Explorers Club, a group dedicated to promoting scientific exploration.


Panelist: RDML John Okon

Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

Rear Adm. John A. Okon grew up in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology and Oceanography. He holds master’s degrees in meteorology and physical oceanography from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, and in national security studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Upon commissioning, he initially served as a surface warfare officer and transferred to naval oceanography in 1995. He now serves as a member of the Navy’s Information Warfare Community.

At sea, Okon served aboard USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) as first lieutenant, administrative officer and navigator and aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as meteorologist and oceanographer.

Ashore, he served as optimum track ship router at the Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Center; aide to commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command; operations officer and executive assistant to the deputy director for regional operations, Joint Staff; senior oceanography assignment and placement officer, Navy Personnel Command; and executive assistant to the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence.

Okon commanded Naval Oceanography Antisubmarine Warfare Center in Yokosuka, Japan, and Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey.

Personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and various personal, campaign and service awards.


Craig McLeanPanelist: Craig McLean

Craig McLean is the Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) office. He is responsible for directing and implementing NOAA’s research enterprise. Among numerous formal international engagements in science and technology, Mr. McLean serves as the U.S. Representative to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the Co-chair of the U.S. European Union Marine Working Group.

Mr. McLean previously served as NOAA’s Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator of the National Ocean Service, and was the founding Director of OAR’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and served nearly 25 years in NOAA’s Commissioned Corps, making Captain’s rank. Among his achievements and accolades, Craig led NOAA’s planning for the Smithsonian Institution’s Sant Ocean Hall and has won the Department of Commerce Silver and Bronze Medals, the NOAA Corps Commendation Medal, and Special Achievement Medal.