NOS today has three primary mission areas, navigation, observations, and positioning; coastal science and assessment; and ocean and coastal management and services. NOS responsibilities are varied and include maintaining the national coordinate system (the National Spatial Reference System); producing navigation charts; ensuring coastal communities' preparedness response for weather events, natural disasters, and oil/chemical spills; and managing coastal tourism, underwater parks, and national estuarine research reserves.
NOS's predecessor agency, the Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS), has a lengthy history, having undergone many reorganizations. C&GS had been incorporated into the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) in the 1960s, but, in 1970, with the creation of NOAA, C&GS was renamed the National Ocean Survey. In 1982, the Charting & Geodetic Services office was created under NOS, before being renamed the Coast and Geodetic Survey again in 1991. In 1994, C&GS was dissolved, but its subordinate divisions became the Office of the Coast Survey (OCS), the National Geodetic Survey (NGS), and the tides and currents division became the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS).