The Deputy Secretary of Defense has invoked a National Defense Exemption (NDE), after conferring with the Secretary of Commerce.
The NDE will enable the U.S. Navy to continue routine training, testing and operations with Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar.
The NDE replaces the current Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) authorizations for SURTASS LFA sonar activities, which expires Aug. 14. The NDE will be in force for two years or until a new Final Rule is issued, whichever is earlier.
The NDE will provide additional time for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Navy to consider and address issues raised in the rulemaking process. Navy and NMFS have worked closely throughout the rulemaking, and will continue to do so in order to protect marine mammals while achieving the Navy's national security mission.
During the exemption period, the Navy will continue to comply with all mitigation and monitoring measures that were included in the proposed rule plus additional mitigation measures the Navy agreed to after its publication.
The Navy developed and employs SURTASS LFA sonar to meet the need for detecting quiet submarines at long range, and the system is critical to the national defense.