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Public Statements

Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am offering this amendment because I am concerned about the intent and the function of title X and title XI. I would like to seek some clarification from the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, my friend from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), if he would join me in a discussion.

Mr. Oberstar, with respect to title X, I'm concerned that if we transfer 80 percent of the funding for the Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge functions to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Coast Guard will not be able to manage the appeals process of any of the truck, rail, and port workers who might be denied the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC, card. My concern is that we will create a bottleneck in the appeals process, effectively slowing TWIC appeals and preventing American workers from gainful employment while appeals are adjudicated.

Can you assure us that when this bill emerges from conference that you will make sure that the Coast Guard retains sufficient resources to address the expected TWIC appeal workload resulting from the million workers that are applying?

I yield to the gentleman from Minnesota.

Mr. OBERSTAR. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Certainly it's our intention to protect the resources of the Coast Guard. We will work to assure that when a bill emerges from conference that there will be sufficient change, that we will not elevate one mission above any other critical Coast Guard mission.

And as further clarification, it was simply a request from NTSB that at least for 1 year we transfer adequate funds to start off. So the legislation limits that transfer of dollars to 1 year, and we will work to assure the strengthening of that language to make sure that that's only for 1 year. And then in the meantime, as I said in an earlier discussion on this matter, we will go to the Appropriations Committee, I hope in a bipartisan effort, to ask them to provide sufficient additional funding for the Coast Guard to continue to carry out its missions.

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. I thank you for that assurance. It's certainly a huge issue, as far as I'm concerned, as we deal with Homeland Security and TWIC cards. So I greatly appreciate the chairman's assurance of that, and I'm looking forward to that bipartisan effort. We, unfortunately, don't have enough bipartisanship and bipartisan effort here; so I thank the chairman for that.

Reclaiming my time, Madam Chairman, with respect to title XI, I'm concerned that the current language might give the appearance of elevating the Coast Guard's marine safety mission above its other critical missions, such as search and rescue, national defense, and port security.

Can you confirm for me, Mr. Chairman, that it is not your intent to elevate this one mission above other missions that are critical for the Coast Guard?

I yield to the gentleman from Minnesota.

Mr. OBERSTAR. Again I thank the gentleman for yielding.

It is certainly not our intent to elevate marine safety. Marine safety is one of several functions of the Coast Guard. But as I said in earlier debates, when Mr. Young, then chairman of the committee, and I were at the White House at the earliest stages of creating the Department of Homeland Security, we raised this issue at the White House and said, You're not making clear enough distinction between the homeland security role of the Coast Guard and the other functions, search and rescue, marine safety, aid in navigation, and so on. So we're now providing that clear delineation, assuring there are adequate resources, providing additional personnel to the Coast Guard, the first really substantial increase in Coast Guard personnel since I came to Congress in 1975. And I'm really insistent on this, that we do not elevate above that but that we clearly delineate the marine safety function of the Coast Guard.

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Certainly that's important.

And reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman for his assurances, and I appreciate his willingness to engage in this dialogue to clarify the intent of these two titles and his commitment to work with me in conference to ensure that the Coast Guard has the authorities and resources it needs to secure our homeland.

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. My concern was that the GAO is going to investigate any improprieties within the current Administrative Law Judge System, and that GAO report hasn't been completed. This just seems premature. That is what drew my concern, and I appreciate the chairman's assurances.

With that, I have got one more statement.

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Madam Chairman, I submit for the Record two letters, a statement from the Commandant of the Coast Guard, as well as the letter from TSA stating their concern on these titles.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard,
Washington, DC, April 23, 2008.
Hon. James L. Oberstar,
Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.

Dear Chairman Oberstar: On April 18, the Committee filed with the Rules Committee an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 2830, that would be retitled the ``Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008.'' During numerous meetings and staff-level discussions over several months, we have described how a number of provisions that appear in this amendment would compromise organizational efficiency and operational effectiveness, diminish my command and control, and ultimately reduce the Coast Guard's effectiveness in carrying out its safety, security, and stewardship missions. We have expressed these and other concerns in Department of Homeland Security views letters concerning earlier bill language. The amendment also contains provisions neither previously shared nor discussed with the Coast Guard.

One provision requiring that the Coast Guard provide security around liquefied natural gas terminals and tankers is contrary to the existing assistance framework, at odds with accepted risk management practices, and would divert finite Coast Guard assets from other high-priority missions. I recommend a broader discussion of security measures for all extremely hazardous cargoes. In the Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 2830, the Administration has stated that, if the bill is presented to the President with this provision, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Among the others is one that, while similar to the Administration's proposal, fails to authorize the President to appoint officers to positions of importance and responsibility to accommodate organizational change in the future (Admirals and Vice Admirals). Others, primarily involving our important marine safety mission, would statutorily fix the designation and duties of other senior Coast Guard officials and officials at all levels of command, and prescribe inflexible personnel qualification requirements. Still other provisions would diminish the Coast Guard's capacity to adjudicate merchant mariner licensing matters efficiently and effectively and support other vital security adjudications of the Department of Homeland Security (Appeals to National Transportation Safety Board). Still more provisions would prescribe contracting and acquisition practices for the Deepwater program, thereby increasing the cost of, and adding delay to, the Deepwater acquisition process, as well as circumventing the review and approval authority of Coast Guard technical authorities (Coast Guard Integrated Deepwater Program).

Among the new provisions is one that dramatically alters admission procedures for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. While I have discussed Academy admissions several times with Chairman Cummings and we agree that our process should yield successful cadets and reflect our diverse society, the proposed Congressional nomination process deserves full discussion and deliberate consideration. Other new provisions that affect how we execute our missions deserve similar scrutiny. Conversely, the bill omits the Administration proposal for much needed enhanced authority to prosecute those who would smuggle undocumented aliens into the United States by sea (Maritime Alien Smuggling Law Enforcement Act) and the Administration's proposal to protect seafarers who participate in investigations and adjudication of environmental crimes or who have been abandoned in the United States (Protection of and fair treatment of seafarers).

Over the last year in the course of hearings, personal meetings with you, and regional forums with industry, as well as in my public statements, I have assured you and the public that we share a common objective: a robust marine safety program suited to meet the evolving demands of industry and the marine public. I am already taking aggressive steps to right the balance between our marine safety mission and our other vital responsibilities, and improve the effectiveness, consistency, and responsiveness of our marine safety program, consistent with the framework I presented to you last September. Legislation such as the provisions I describe above was unnecessary to start this process. As I have stated on several occasions, I am the Commandant and am accountable to you to produce the changes needed to improve program performance.

Including these provisions and others in an Authorization Act that would otherwise be welcome compels me to strongly oppose the bill.

Sincerely,

T.W. Allen,
Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant.

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration,
Arlington, VA, April 22, 2008.
Hon. Peter T. King,
Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.

Dear Congressman King: I am writing to express the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) strong opposition to Title X--Appeals to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the manager's amendment to H.R. 2830, the ``Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007.'' Title X would transfer Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) authority for review of merchant mariner documentation and 80 percent of the Coast Guard ALJ budget to the NTSB. This could have an adverse impact upon the adjudication of TSA's civil enforcement cases and anticipated cases dealing with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.

TSA questions whether sufficient legal, administrative, and budget resources will continue to be provided to the Coast Guard to support its remaining ALJ functions, including adjudication of TSA security cases.

For more than 5 years, TSA has been extremely well served by the Coast Guard ALJs as fair, impartial, and responsive adjudicators in security cases involving individuals in the transportation sector. Under an interagency agreement, Coast Guard ALJs play a major role in TSA's enforcement and security credentialing programs. They adjudicate aviation security civil penalty cases,

Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) and TWIC denials of requests for waivers and appeals from individuals who have received a Final Determination of Threat Assessment; appeals by air cargo workers who have received a Final Determination of Threat Assessment; and appeals by individuals holding or applying for Federal Aviation Administration certificates, ratings, or authorizations who have received a Final Determination of Threat Assessment.

In the absence of sufficient ALJ legal and administrative resources at the Coast Guard, TSA does not regard NTSB ALJs as a good alternative. Coast Guard ALJs have substantial expertise in fair adjudication of security programs. NTSB ALJs do not have expertise in transportation security matters. As TSA continually expands the implementation of the TWIC program and the Coast Guard enforces it at our Nation's seaports, TSA and TWIC applicants will benefit from the substantial experience Coast Guard ALJs have in the maritime security environment.

In addition, Coast Guard ALJs have been sensitive to the challenges faced by individuals representing themselves in a formal administrative process and have worked with TSA to develop simplified procedures.

TSA and Coast Guard have worked together for years to establish caseload management procedures, agreements, and funding processes to efficiently handle TSA cases. For example, the Coast Guard serves as TSA's Docketing Center for its formal hearing process. Shifting the workload to ALJs of another agency would create a huge setback for TSA enforcement and administration. ALJ coverage, budgeting, processing time, and even geographic availability would have to be reassessed and reestablished, a process that may take several years.

In addition, TSA's HME and TWIC are fee-based programs. TSA developed its fee models based on Coast Guard cost estimates and processing models. If conditions necessitate TSA's seeking ALJ services outside Coast Guard, this could affect program costs, and consequently, fees for applicants.

I would appreciate your consideration of TSA's concerns about the potential adverse impact of Title X on the efficient adjudication of important TSA security cases.

Identical letters have been sent to the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee as well as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Claire Heffernan, Acting Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs, at (571) 227-2717 if you have any questions about this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Kip Hawley,
Assistant Secretary.

I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.

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