April 27, 2022

Chairs DeFazio, Carbajal Statements from Hearing on the Proposed FY23 Budget for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transport Programs

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Salud Carbajal (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Review of Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs.”

Videos of DeFazio and Carbajal’s opening statements are here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Thank you, Chair Carbajal. The Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, and Federal Maritime Commission all play vital roles in safeguarding the economical movement of $5.4 trillion in our marine transportation system, and I have stressed for decades that we need to provide robust funding to these three agencies who are critical to our national security and economic sustainability.

I would like to start by commending Admiral Schultz for his strong, steadfast leadership of the Coast Guard. For the past four years, you have steered the Coast Guard on a steady course through unprecedented, turbulent waters. Through your vision, the Coast Guard has emerged more ready, relevant, and responsive during these tough times. Your retirement is well-earned. Thank you for your service to your country, Admiral Schultz.

I’d also like to congratulate Admiral Linda Fagan on her historic nomination as the next Commandant of the Coast Guard. I couldn’t be more pleased with her nomination to succeed Admiral Schultz and am confident she will command the Coast Guard with honor, integrity, and great devotion. I look forward to working together.

For fiscal year 2023 the Coast Guard has requested $13.82 billion, just a 1.3 percent increase in its overall budget relative to the fiscal year 2022 enacted level, including a 0.8 percent or $95.9 million increase in discretionary spending. I am encouraged by the Coast Guard’s request this year versus last when the Coast Guard’s budget request was a mere .3 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 enacted level. However, given the Coast Guard’s diverse array of missions and increasing responsibility, 1.3 percent is simply not enough.

My primary concern is the servicemembers and the deplorable, dilapidated buildings they must work and live in on a daily basis. Inadequate housing and childcare are a persistent complaint amongst servicemembers. If we want to increase retention and diversity, we must do more to support our Coast Guard members. I’m also concerned with the downward trend in recruiting. The Service has set an ambitious goal to recruit 4,200 new servicemembers in 2022. This is a huge undertaking for a service that has only 320 recruiters and I look forward to an update on progress made to meet this goal.

I am also deeply concerned with the 35.6 percent decrease in funding requested for shore facilities and aids to navigation. This is particularly alarming in light of the Coast Guard’s estimated $3 billion shoreside infrastructure maintenance backlog. This deficit has grown after many years of underfunding, and I am interested to learn more about how the Coast Guard arrived at just $180 million needed to address the backlog.

With regards to the Maritime Administration, MARAD is vital to ensuring successful management of U.S. maritime and shipbuilding industries. During the unprecedented events of the past couple of years, we have seen that maritime commerce provides a direct lifeline to the economy. Today, I am curious to learn more about the decrease in MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program request compared to the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. If we are going to provide for a resilient supply chain, it all starts and ends with port capacity.

However, I am pleased to see an increase of $19.8 million or 11.5 percent over the fiscal year 2022 enacted level for MARAD operations and training. This amount includes $99.7 million dedicated to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which is expected to fund some much-needed maintenance and repairs to the Academy’s aging buildings, and most importantly, to support new EMBARC measures which have been designed to protect cadets against sexual assault and sexual harassment while at sea.

In the last year, the Academy has faced great scrutiny regarding its culture and safety, and for good reason. Fortunately, we have been witness to the steadfast leadership of MARAD’s Acting Administrator, Ms. Lucinda Lessley. She has worked diligently to motivate a major cultural shift at the Academy despite significant resistance. I have every confidence that Ms. Lessley will continue to lead with competence and capability to benefit the Academy and MARAD at-large.

Turning to the Federal Maritime Commission, I am pleased to see a 5.5 percent increase requested for its overall funding. I believe it’s clear that the Commission needs additional resources to enhance its oversight and enforcement capabilities due to disruptions to the global supply chain over the past couple of years.

The increase is warranted to provide the Commission with the resources needed to effectively oversee and ensure all foreign carriers abide by fair shipping practices and comply with all U.S. anti-trust requirements.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how the President’s budget will ensure that the Coast Guard, MARAD, the FMC, and all the programs that support and regulate the U.S. maritime industry are adequately resourced.

Chair Carbajal:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing on the “Review of Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs.”

Today, we will hear directly from the Commandant and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, the Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission, and the Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration on the President’s budget request and agency priorities.    

We begin with testimony from the Coast Guard, which has nearly 40,500 active-duty military members, 8,000 reservists, and 9,000 civilian employees who carry out the Service’s missions, including port and waterway security, marine environmental protection, boater safety, and Search and Rescue, among others. Despite the agency’s importance as one of the six branches of our military, the Coast Guard is chronically underfunded and overextended even during its largest recapitalization effort since World War II.

To ensure our servicemembers have the equipment, personnel, and support systems they need to complete their missions and return home safe, the Service must be supported with every available resource.

Following the Coast Guard, I look forward to hearing from the FMC on how it plans to address supply chain issues and ensure fairness in ocean shipping. The agriculture industry, which includes many farmers and growers in my home state of California, continues to be negatively impacted by these supply chain issues. As the federal agency tasked with enforcing international shipping regulations, FMC has key authorities which allows it to secure an even playing field for participants of maritime commerce and continue to promote American jobs.

Last but not least, I look forward to MARAD discussing its plans to revitalize the American maritime industry, from ports and infrastructure, to our shrinking U.S. flagged fleet, and the availability of merchant mariners.

Acting Administrator Lessley has done a phenomenal job facilitating efforts to upend the toxic culture that’s allowed sexual assault and harassment to fester within the maritime industry. Her leadership on EMBARC and her work to bring industry along is remarkable and does not go unnoticed. 

We have a long way to go, but I believe her leadership and the passage of the Safer Seas Act, of which I am original cosponsor, will help protect future mariners and bring justice to victims. Ms. Lessley: Chair DeFazio and I stand ready to help you.

MARAD oversees vital grant programs including the Maritime Security Program, the new Tanker Security Program, META, and the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which give maritime users the opportunity to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of their operations shoreside and at sea. This benefits mariners, the U.S. economy, and our irreplaceable natural environment.

To give one example: META, the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance program, supports the research, development, installation, and use of new low carbon technologies that are safe, affordable, and sustainable. Investing in such innovations is crucial to positioning the United States as a leader in the global marketplace and help reduce our carbon pollution within the transportation sector.

From MARAD, I’m particularly interested in how the Port Infrastructure Development Program will support the Morro Bay wind energy project offshore of my district. Building out the port infrastructure to receive and transmit this energy, as well as creating laydown space for shoreside wind turbine staging, is of critical importance and will take a significant investment. This project is especially timely for areas in my home district such as San Luis Obispo County, who may need federal assistance to take full advantage of this budding energy industry.

I will end my remarks here by thanking our witnesses and attendees for their participation. I want to doubly thank the Commandant, Admiral Schultz, as he will be retiring from his position in June. Admiral Schultz has given his entire career in service to this country, and has been a knowledgeable and genial leader for the Coast Guard in his work with us in Congress for four years. I wish you a fulfilling next chapter of your life.

I hope today’s testimonies and the discussions that follow will call Congress’s attention to priorities within America’s vital maritime domain.