July 21, 2021

Chairs DeFazio, Carbajal Statements from Subcommittee Hearing to Review Fiscal Year 2022 Budget for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation 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 2022 Budget 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. Last year, we did not have a budget hearing, and after reviewing the collective budget requests for the three federal agencies responsible for overseeing, regulating, and promoting the American maritime industry, Congress has some important questions.

This fiscal year, the Coast Guard has requested only a 0.3% increase in their overall budget relative to the fiscal year 2021 enacted level, including a 0.6% or $65 million decrease in discretionary spending. This comes at a time when the Coast Guard is tasked with expanding its mission reach and we must ensure the service is adequately funded.

I am curious to hear the Coast Guard’s plan to support the men and women who are the backbone of the service. While Congress continues to appropriate funding for Polar Security Cutters, Offshore Patrol Cutters, and other acquisitions, I am concerned that the Coasties charged with operating those assets are being left behind.

While the budget includes a 3% pay increase, I remain concerned that the growing backlog of shoreside infrastructure, including housing and childcare facilities, is being neglected. The Coast Guard must do everything in its power to recruit and retain highly qualified and diverse servicemembers.

As a maritime nation, our country’s security and economic strength is directly linked to our major oceans, inland rivers, deep-water ports, and waterways. The Maritime Administration is vital to ensuring successful management of U.S. maritime and shipbuilding industries.

We have seen with the unprecedented events of the past year that maritime commerce provides a direct lifeline to the economy. I am concerned that since the president’s request contains no increase compared to the fiscal year 2021 enacted level of $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program, our nation’s ports will continue to be underfunded. In order to ensure the smooth movement of cargo, we must ensure that our ports are state of the art.

Furthermore, the omission of funding for the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Authority in MARAD’s budget is another cause for concern. Despite the Maritime Transportation System receiving no financial assistance during this COVID-19 public health emergency, the industry was expected to maintain full, if not increased, operations throughout the pandemic.

We need to be doing much, much more to support our maritime industry, and I hope that Admiral Schultz, Chairman Maffei, and Administrator Lessley can provide answers and a true vision for the future.

I am encouraged, however, to see a minor increase of 2% to the Federal Maritime Commission’s funding. It’s clear the Commission needs additional resources to enhance its oversight and enforcement capabilities due to the disruptions to the global supply chain this year.

Fact Finding 29 is an important first step toward improving efficient cargo movement and providing timely information to direct the Commission’s action, none of which can happen without Congress providing the agency adequate resources.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how the president’s budget will ensure that the Coast Guard and 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 2022 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 Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and the Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration on the president’s budget request and agency priorities.

The Coast Guard currently has approximately 41,600 active-duty military members, 7,000 reservists, and 8,200 civilian employees supporting the Service’s 11 missions, including Port and Waterway Security, Marine Environmental Protection, Marine Safety, Aids to Navigation, and Search and Rescue, among others. Despite the agency’s importance as one of the six branches of the military and their role in maritime law enforcement, the Coast Guard is chronically underfunded and overextended. We must support our servicemembers with every resource available to carry out their missions.

I’m particularly interested in updates on the implementation of the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act, enacted as part of the FY 2021 NDAA and how the Coast Guard is working to ensure that another event like the CONCEPTION fire does not occur again. I also look forward to updates on the Coast Guard’s ability to balance a diverse mission set; efforts to support Coasties through housing and childcare investments; the status of the Coast Guard’s Technology Revolution; reimbursement levels to the Coast Guard from the Department of Defense for their Defense Readiness mission support; and the Coast Guard’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts that will strengthen the Service.

On marine transportation, I look forward to MARAD’s plan to revitalize every facet of the U.S. maritime industry, from our ports to the continually declining U.S. flagged fleet and the associated American merchant mariners. I would like to hear more about how the Port Infrastructure Development Program can help address and prepare for climate change.

I’m particularly interested in how the Port Infrastructure Development Program will support the recently announced Morro Bay wind 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.

We must also invest in maritime sector decarbonization. MARAD’s Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance program is crucial to supporting the technological advances to position the United States as a leader in green shipping technology.

I am disappointed that the Administration’s National Maritime Strategy remains incomplete. While mandated by legislation in 2014, MARAD has yet to develop an implementation plan or report on regulations that impact the competitiveness of the industry. The U.S. flagged maritime fleet has declined to an unacceptable level and the agency tasked with its promotion has refused to act. I hope that under new leadership, we see that change.

Following up on last month’s hearing on shipping container shortages and delays and considering President Biden’s Executive Order promoting competitiveness in the American economy, I look forward to hearing from the FMC on how they plan to allocate resources toward addressing these market concerns and ensuring an even playing field.

We have a lot to cover and no time to waste, so let’s jump into it. I look forward to our witness’ testimonies and hearing each agency’s spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.