With the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) currently in development, the worldwide oceanographic community is on the brink of “operational oceanography,” which essentially means provision of “operational ocean services” where “operational” means “routine” and “ocean services” means “marine environmental information.” GOOS is a joint campaign of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Environmental Program, and the International Council for Science. GOOS will integrate expanded real-time in situ and satellite observations with numerical models to form model-based information products for a multiplicity of societal needs, including scientific research [Stel, 1997].

Operational oceanography has become a popular tune without a copyright but with many bandmasters. While Europeans and northeast Asians are moving ahead aggressively with GOOS activities, the United States has been hesitant, lacking in foresight, and awash in planning activities. It is time to ask, What has happened?, What is happening?, and What should happen?