President Obama, faced with some tough choices in the fiscal year 2011 federal budget, has made his priorities clear when it comes to maritime programs. They will be among many federal programs that will be singed by the budget ax, if Congress goes along with his spending plan.
The Coast Guard would see its budget cut 3.3 percent and would have to shed 773 positions. The Corps of Engineers, which funds navigation projects, would be trimmed about 10 percent. Then there are slices in programs for ports and no money to jump start coastal short-sea shipping projects, which many say would greatly help relieve truck traffic on already snarled highways.
The Coast Guard, which seems to always be told to do more with less, says it can live with the cuts because the proposal would fund much needed replacements to aging aircraft and ships under the Deepwater recapitalization program. “You never have enough budget,” Commandant Thad Allen said recently. “But if we don’t recapitalize, we’ll be a hollow force in the future.”
Now it’s up to Congress to decide whether Mr. Obama has made the right budget choices when it comes to maritime programs, many of which touch the daily business of the workboat industry.
Hearings before various congressional committees to discuss the budget plan are set to begin on Capitol Hill. If you feel strongly about any of these budget proposals, it’s a good time to let your congressman or senator know.
Or you could attend upcoming meetings in Washington, D.C., of the Waterways Council (Feb. 22-24), the American Waterways Operators (April 14-16), the National Waterways Conference (annual legislative summit, March 9-10) or the American Association of Port Authorities (March 22-24) to get briefed on what’s going on and participate in lobbying activities on the Hill.