A reauthorization bill for the U.S. Coast Guard introduced on Thursday
includes provisions that its authors say will help strengthen the U.S. Merchant Marine and proposals that they say will increase oversight and reform the Federal Maritime Commission.
The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (H.R. 4005) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), T&I Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II, (D-WV), and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA).
The bill authorizes $8.7 billion in discretionary funds for the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
“These levels of funding support military pay raises for Coast Guard service members at a level consistent with service members of the other Armed Forces,” according to a summary of the bill
prepared by the committee.
Hunter said the bill “improves the effectiveness of Coast Guard missions by reducing inefficient operations and enhancing oversight, places the Coast Guard’s major systems acquisition program on a sustainable track, and encourages job growth in the U.S. maritime industry by cutting regulatory burdens on job creation.”
The bill “requires the Maritime Administration to develop a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. flagged fleet, reduce regulatory burdens on U.S. flagged vessel operators, increase the use of short seas shipping, and enhance U.S. shipbuilding capacity.”
In a statement, the committee noted that “over the last 35 years, the number of U.S.-flagged vessels sailing in the international trade has dropped from 850 to less than 100. In the same period, we have lost over 300 shipyards and thousands of jobs for American mariners. Preserving and strengthening our nation’s maritime industry is important to our economy and vital to our national security.
“Beyond the important contributions to our economy, a healthy maritime industry is vital to our national security. Throughout our history, the Navy has relied on U.S.-flagged commercial vessels crewed by American Merchant Mariners to carry troops, weapons, and supplies to the battlefield," it continued. "During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels transported 63 percent of all military cargos moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. Since we cannot rely on foreign vessels and crews to provide for our national security, it is critical that we maintain a robust fleet of U.S. flagged vessels, a large cadre of skilled American mariners, and a strong shipyard industrial base.”
At the Federal Maritime Commission, the bill would fund the agency at current levels ($24.7 million) for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The bill also seeks to restrict the amount of time a commissioner can serve at the agency.
“Unlike commissioners on similar federal commissions, once a commissioner’s term expires, the law currently allows the commissioner to continue to serve until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate. There are also no term limits on Federal Maritime Commissioners,” the committee said in its summary.
“This legislation prohibits a commissioner from serving more than one year after the five-year term expires, imposes a term limit of two terms, and codifies current conflict of interest prohibitions on the action of commissioners.”