One of the final acts of the 2014 congressional session was passage of the Coast Guard authorization bill. The bill funds Coast Guard activities for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. 

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bipartisan legislation that authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard and its missions, and the U.S. Senate did the same on Dec. 10. It was signed into law by the president on Dec. 18.

“The Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act gives our Coast Guard the necessary tools and support it needs to carry out its vital mission to protect Americans at sea and guard against illegal trafficking,” a group of bipartisan members of Congress said in a statement following congressional approval. 

The new law does the following:
• Authorizes the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2015;
• Supports Coast Guard service members and their families;
• Helps replace and modernize aging Coast Guard assets in a cost effective manner;
• Provides new authorities the Coast Guard needs to prepare for its operations and for the safety of maritime transportation in the Arctic;
• Encourages the Coast Guard to work with the private sector;
• Enhances Congressional oversight;
• Improves Coast Guard acquisition activities;
• Works to reduce the Coast Guard’s excess property inventory;
• Requires development of a National Maritime Strategy;
• Creates opportunities for veterans;
• Reduces regulatory burdens to create jobs and encourage economic growth; and
• Reforms the Federal Maritime Commission.

The measure passed the House by a 413-3 vote and passed the Senate by unanimous consent. — Ken Hocke