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Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012 Amendments

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

First, I want to take a moment to thank Mr. LoBiondo for his outstanding leadership of the Coast Guard Committee, and also Mr. Larsen, the ranking member from Washington. I know Frank LoBiondo has a great love for the United States Coast Guard. He has worked diligently, long, and tirelessly for one of our most important branches and most historic branches of government over the years and dedicated part of his time, but a full commitment, to the United States Coast Guard.

As we take up H.R. 2838 today, as we consider that reauthorization for the United States Coast Guard--and Congress must authorize every program. We create the Coast Guard by law. We must also set the policy and the programs and the funding levels through our committee, an important responsibility.

Now, we have an important responsibility, but we're reminded again, even in the last few days, of the death of one of our Coast Guard officers, Chief Mate Terrell Horne. He was killed protecting the United States. I think it was drug smugglers who took his life in southern California while a small boat was trying to stop their activities. Here again we are painfully reminded of the sacrifice of those men and women in service to the United States. So this morning, I really would like to dedicate this reauthorization to his memory and the memory of all the men and women who have served in the Coast Guard.

I had lost one young lady from St. Augustine in the Arctic. I remember that tragic loss of her life and so many others who have served us well in the United States Coast Guard, an important national security and safety agency that protects us day in and day out, 24/7. So we are reminded of their sacrifices and, today, of our responsibility.

To succeed at the many jobs that we assign members of the Coast Guard, they must have the resources on the water and the docks to complete their important mission. This bill authorizes the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. It's a total of $8.6 billion. Of course, when you talk about trillions in our Federal budget and activities, it's a small amount for the more than 50,000 Coast Guard men and women and for the programs that they undertake again each day.

One of the things we've tried to do is make the regulatory burden on fishermen more reasonable by extending some of the time they undergo to have dockside examinations. Again, in addition to serving national security purposes and maritime safety, we also serve an important economic activity, and that's the fishing community.

This bill also looks towards helping others that we're responsible for in the maritime industry. One of the problems we've had is in developing a TWIC card. A TWIC card is a Transportation Worker Identification Credential. We've had great problems with trying to get that installed so that we could find out who is entering our ports and to ensure that is done safely and securely, particularly with the threats that we face, the huge coastline of ports, the exposure that we face from maritime threats. And I think we've, hopefully, lessened some of the burdensome time required by multiple trips to get folks that need these cards to go to these enrollment centers--again, trying to help those who we're supposed to serve and to help them do their job in an expedited fashion.

As you know, our committee published a report. When we were in the minority, we helped author it. The title of the report was, ``The Federal Government Must Stop Sitting on Its Assets.'' And in each of the categories and areas we're responsible for in the Transportation Committee, whether it's empty public buildings that have sat there, properties underutilized, we want to make sure that taxpayers' resources are used in the best possible way.

So this bill follows up our report by requiring the Coast Guard, which has currently sidelined one of our heavy icebreakers, to make a decision on either being reactivated or decommissioned. Again, we can't sit on valuable assets in any of our agencies.

Finally, this bill restricts the use of post-construction of future National Security Cutters until our National Security Cutters meet long-promised mission performance capabilities. We started producing a small number of National Security Cutters--bigger than 100-plus-foot cutters--after 9/11. We've had some problems with that program. It's our responsibility to straighten out those problems, to make certain that the long-promised mission performance capabilities are met, and this bill hopefully leads us in that positive direction.

Unfortunately, the bill does not restrict the ability of foreign seamen injured outside the United States on non-U.S.-flagged vessels from suing in United States courts, paid for by United States taxpayers. It was something we had hoped to achieve. We couldn't put it in this bill.

There are some other measures I would have liked to have had in this bill. It does not, unfortunately, establish--but we passed in the House--a uniform national standard for ballast water discharges. And that provision is supported by many in the House and by the U.S. and international maritime industries.

So we've done a good part of the job. I think we've met our responsibility, and I am pleased that we are here to authorize, for a period of 2 years, the United States Coast Guard, its operations and its programs, and support the men and women who support us. So, with that, I urge the passage of H. Res. 825.

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