The House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that supports and strengthens the U.S. Coast Guard in its critical missions to save lives, safeguard our shores, and protect living marine resources.
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1987) authorizes Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission funding levels for two years, and includes provisions to improve Coast Guard mission effectiveness, help modernize the service’s aging vessels and other assets, and reform U.S. maritime transportation laws. The bill was introduced by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
“Tonight’s House passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 is an important step in ensuring the men and women of the Coast Guard have the necessary resources needed to carry out their vital role in supporting maritime safety and security,” said Hunter. “As the process moves forward, I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure a strong final product.”
“America’s Coast Guard and Merchant Marine play an indispensable role in our national security and economic prosperity,” said Garamendi. “This bipartisan legislation supports their work and I applaud its passage. The bill would provide crucial budget stability, help the Coast Guard recapitalize its fleet and meet its mission goals, and promote the use of U.S. flag vessels and U.S. seafarers in the transport of liquefied natural gas.”
“The Coast Guard works tirelessly to improve the safety and security of our transportation system and our nation’s shores, and this bill gives them the support they need to carry out their critical responsibilities,” said Shuster.
“For more than 100 years, the Coast Guard has kept our ports and waterways secure, protected our shores and communities, and responded to disasters or emergencies affecting our mariners, fishermen, and the general public,” said DeFazio. “Congress must ensure that the Coast Guard has the resources and assets necessary to accomplish its mission, and this bipartisan bill attempts to meet that shared goal. I’m glad this bill passed the House and look forward to working with my colleagues to get it signed into law.”
“The bill authorizes funding for the Coast Guard at levels that are reasonable, but would still allow the Coast Guard to recapitalize its aging cutters in a timely manner,” said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a member of the Coast Guard subcommittee. “The two ongoing cutter replacement projects are being built along the Gulf Coast, including one in Louisiana. A Louisiana company is also a finalist in the competition to build the next class of medium endurance cutters.”
Highlights of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015:
- Authorizes the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 at currently authorized levels, ensuring the service has the resources it needs to successfully conduct its critical missions.
- Supports Coast Guard servicemembers by ensuring Coast Guard officers and enlisted servicemembers receive access to the same benefits as their counterparts in the Department of Defense.
- Recapitalizes Aging Coast Guard Assets to ensure the Coast Guard has the tools to carry out its important missions and keep critically needed new aircraft, vessels, and related technology on schedule and on budget.
- Modernizes Leadership by aligning the leadership structure of the Coast Guard with that of the other armed services to improve interaction and cooperation among the services.
- Improves National Security Competencies by authorizing the appointment of Coast Guard officers to critical national security assignments.
- Promotes Private Sector Solutions by encouraging the Coast Guard to explore commercial off-the-shelf technologies to solve problems affecting mission performance.
- Seeks Independent Recommendations by requiring the Government Accountability Office to review Coast Guard mission performance and provide recommendations on ways to improve effectiveness.
- Enhances Accountability in Acquisitions by making important reforms to the acquisition process to reduce costs and improve the quality of assets delivered.
- Increases Congressional Oversight by requiring the Coast Guard to plan for its long-term acquisition and manpower needs.
- Prevents Taxpayer Dollars from Being Wasted by authorizing the Coast Guard to recover its costs for servicing privately-held marine events and eliminating, consolidating, and modifying duplicative and outdated reporting requirements.
- Supports U.S.-flagged and -Crewed Vessels by strengthening the enforcement of current law that requires cargo financed by the federal government to be shipped on U.S. flagged vessels.
- Reduces Regulatory Burdens by requiring the Coast Guard to certify local physicians to make medical fitness determinations of merchant mariners, aligning the expiration of the multiple documents U.S. mariners must carry to work on board vessels, eliminating the need for annual registration of recreational vessels, and encouraging the Coast Guard to reduce reporting requirements on industry.
- Promotes Common Sense Regulations by revising outdated regulatory definitions to bring them in line with modern industry practice and to improve manufacturing efficiency and recreational vessel safety.
- Improves Accountability at the Federal Maritime Commission by including reforms to the proceedings of the FMC and prohibiting the spending of taxpayer funds on superfluous awards.