The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), held a hearing this morning to examine the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget requests for the United States Coast Guard, Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), and Maritime Administration (MARAD).
The following is the opening statement of Chairman LoBiondo:
"The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the President's fiscal year 2013 budget request from the leaders of the three federal agencies which promote, protect, and regulate vessels and mariners in U.S. waters and international trade.
"As my colleagues know, our nation is facing a very tough budget climate as we try to control our exploding national debt. This Congress must continue to make extremely difficult decisions to bring our spending under control and cut the deficit. The effort continues today with the presentation of the fiscal year 2013 budget request.
"The President requests $9.96 billion for the Coast Guard in FY 2013, a 4 percent cut over the current level. This is the first time in over a decade that a President proposes to reduce funding for the Coast Guard. These cuts have me gravely concerned we will repeat the same mistakes we made in the 1990's, when misguided cuts to the Service's operating and acquisitions budgets left it entirely unprepared to meet the post 9/11 mission demand.
"For the fiscal year 2013 operating budget, the President proposes to slash the number of Coast Guard servicemembers by more than 1,000, shutter recruiting stations, close seasonal air facilities, take recently upgraded helicopters out of service, and exacerbates the growing patrol boat mission hour gap by retiring vessels before their replacements arrive.
"For acquisitions, the President proposes to slash the budget by $272 million or 19 percent below the FY 2012 enacted level. The request proposes to terminate or delay the acquisition of the critically needed replacement assets including, response boat mediums, fast response cutters, maritime patrol aircraft, long range surveillance aircraft, and unmanned aircraft systems. It also proposes to put off important upgrades to the Jayhawk helicopter fleet and delay sustainment projects on buoy tenders. Finally, the request slashes the budget for improvements to shoreside installations by over 86 percent and eliminates funding to renovate its derelict housing for servicemembers and their dependents.
"Although, I commend Admiral Papp for being honest about what these cuts will mean for the ability of the Coast Guard to successfully conduct its missions, I am very disappointed that the Secretary of Homeland Security and the President feel it is nonetheless, acceptable to make them.
"As I have said before, I think there are ways to find savings in the Coast Guard's budget by trimming administrative costs and implementing efficiencies in operations. Our Coast Guard authorization bill which passed the House in November, provided for just that. But this budget request undermines the Service's readiness and mission effectiveness and could adversely impact the safety and security of our ports and waterways.
"The budget request for the Maritime Administration represents a 1.6 percent reduction below the current level. Most of the cuts come from zeroing out funding for grants and other programs which are meant to revitalize the maritime sector and protect U.S. mariner jobs.
"I am particularly concerned the Administration proposes to yet again zero out funding for Title XI loan guarantees. The Title XI program has served as an important catalyst for growing American shipbuilding jobs in the past, and it could be an important component to further our recovery from the current recession with very little cost to the taxpayer.
"Finally, the budget request for the Federal Maritime Commission proposes a nearly 8 percent increase over current levels. Although an 8 percent increase in the FMC budget amounts to less than $2 million, I think it sends the wrong signal in the current fiscal environment.
"The Commission needs to take a much closer look at their operations and try to develop savings through consolidation of services and more efficient operations."