The following is the statement of U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, from today's hearing to review the Coast Guard's implementation of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) since its passage 10 years ago:
"Today marks the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I would like to take a moment to remember those who perished on that tragic day. I also want to express our gratitude to the brave men and women working so hard both at home and overseas to improve our ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from such attacks.
"We are also approaching the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA). MTSA was a landmark piece of legislation that established a framework to improve the security of the nation's ports, waterways, and vessels from potential terrorist attacks.
"The importance of keeping our ports and waterways secure cannot be overstated. Approximately 90 percent of all global trade and over 25 percent of our Gross Domestic Product moves via the sea. A terrorist attack at our ports could severely disrupt the supply chain, which would be catastrophic to our fragile economy. However, as we recognized in MTSA, improving security at our ports and aboard our vessels means understanding how the industry operates. When MTSA imposed new security mandates on the maritime industry, it was done so in a manner which did not undermine the free flow of commerce or the economic viability of the maritime sector.
"I want to praise the Coast Guard for following that critical balancing act in their efforts to implement MTSA. Throughout the process, the Service has been fair, transparent, and relatively flexible with the large number of stakeholders in our maritime transportation system. Thanks to the leadership of the Coast Guard and the commitment from industry and their employees, I believe our ports and waterways are much safer than they were 11 years ago.
"However, although MTSA has been largely a success story, there are a couple areas where concerns remain. As has been documented in numerous hearings at both the Subcommittee and full Committee level, regulations governing the deployment of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) readers have still not been set. The Service is now telling us it expects to publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) sometime this fall, well over three years later than the original deadline for issuing a final rule. As we continue to wait out these delays, the TWICs are no more than a flash pass. Without the readers in place, we are forcing maritime employees to pay for something that does not serve its intended purpose and we are undermining security at our nation's ports.
"As we highlighted at our hearing in July, concerns persist with regard to the implementation of requirements to improve maritime domain awareness by mandating the installation of new tracking technology on vessels, as well as the sharing of information and intelligence across agencies and among state and local authorities. Specifically, the Service's inability to sufficiently tie its disparate MDA systems into one "common operating picture,' as well as its somewhat duplicative approaches to tracking the same vessels, have been a source of frustration. Additionally, we remain concerned that efforts to share MDA information among stakeholders may suffer as the initiative to build physical Interagency Operation Centers at our ports wanes.
"Finally, and more broadly, I remain worried about the Coast Guard's ability to continue to carry out their core maritime security responsibilities with an ever increasing workload and shrinking budget. The Administration has proposed slashing the Service's budget by $350 million and cutting the number of servicemembers by over 1,000. Yet we have never asked the Service to do more than they are doing now. Cutting funding while adding new responsibilities is a formula for failure."