Ranking Members Larsen, Carbajal Statements from Hearing on Coast Guard’s 2024 Budget
Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Salud Carbajal (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Coast Guard.”
Video of Carbajal’s opening statements can be found here.
More information on the hearing can be found here.
Ranking Member Larsen:
Thank you, Chair Webster. The U.S. Coast Guard plays a vital role in safeguarding the efficient movement of goods in our marine transportation system and so much more. The women and men of the Coast Guard conduct search and rescue operations at sea, prevent the shipment of drugs across our maritime borders, and protect sovereignty in the Arctic and across the world.
The Coast Guard is a lifesaving agency, a regulatory agency, a law enforcement agency, and a military agency. Each aspect is critical to our national and economic security.
I would like to welcome Admiral Fagan and Master Chief Jones and commend you both for your leadership at the Coast Guard. I know Coasties pride themselves for doing a lot with a little but that needs to change.
For fiscal year 2024 the Coast Guard has requested $13.5 billion, which represents a 3.6%increase over the 2023 enacted budget. While this may put the Coast Guard on a better path, we must do better. We cannot expect to have a big-league Coast Guard with little league funding.
Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have suggested reverting back to FY22 funding levels. Doing so would severely impact the Coast Guard causing them to halt their two highest priority acquisitions–the Offshore Patrol Cutter and Polar Security Cutter–putting them further behind. Cutting Coast Guard funding would reduce operational readiness along our maritime borders and impact national security. We cannot allow this to happen.
Fortunately, I believe that my Committee colleagues understand the importance of robust Coast Guard funding and I look forward to marking up a strong Coast Guard Authorization Act next week.
Coast Guard members and their families are too often forced to live and work in dilapidated buildings and Coasties often work on cutters with out-of-date technology.
Coasties stationed on cutters at sea should be able to call their families, Coast Guard cadets at the Coast Guard Academy should be able to sleep in rooms that are free of asbestos, and Coasties across the Service should have access to gender appropriate bathrooms.
While I applaud the Coast Guard’s efforts to modernize its recruitment plan, the best way to recruit and retain more service members is to support our Coasties.
My primary concern is the deplorable, dilapidated buildings servicemembers 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 am concerned about the downward trend in recruiting. The Coast Guard needs to recruit over 4,000 service members in order to reach its recruiting goal. I look forward to an update on progress made to meet the 2023 recruitment goal.
I am also concerned about the 35.6% decrease in funding requested for shore facilities and aids to navigation. This is particularly alarming considering the Coast Guard’s estimated $3 billion shoreside infrastructure maintenance backlog.
This deficit has grown after many years of underfunding, and I want to know how the Coast Guard arrived at just $180 million needed to address the backlog.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses how the President’s budget will ensure adequate resources for the Coast Guard, MARAD, the FMC, and all the programs that support and regulate the U.S. maritime industry.
Finally, I’d like to take a minute to recognize the work the Coast Guard has done to help address sexual assault and sexual harassment in the commercial maritime industry. Since Congress enacted the Safer Seas Act in December, the Coast Guard has taken immediate action to ensure prompt implementation.
The Service has created a centralized location for reporting of incidents, distributed information to industry on reporting requirements and associated penalties, and opened new investigations and prosecutions under the new authority. The Coast Guard has to be candid with its needs and Congress must provide the necessary resources.
I will be watching closely as the Coast Guard completes implementation of the Safer Seas Act.
Thank you and I yield back.
Ranking Member Carbajal:
Thank you, Chair Webster, for calling today’s hearing on the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Admiral Fagan and Master Chief Jones, thank you for being here today and thank you for your service. Your leadership is instrumental in supporting Coasties and you’ve done an outstanding job leading the Service. I’m confident that the Coast Guard has a bright future ahead under your experienced guidance.
As has been mentioned, the Coast Guard performs many important roles that are critical for maintaining our national and economic security. From ensuring navigable waterways to securing our borders and the safety of life at sea, the Coast Guard’s mission set is diverse.
We expect a lot from our Coasties and this often requires them to wear multiple hats–for instance, a drug interdiction can quickly turn into a search and rescue mission. While the Coast Guard’s responsibilities have expanded, its budget has not.
I was pleased that the fiscal year 2024 budget request included a slight increase in discretionary funding, but more resources are still needed to support the Service.
I’m pleased that the Coast Guard has been able to replace much of its 40-year-old surface fleet and aircraft. Last Congress, I was proud to support the Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, which authorized substantial funding to address long overdue vessel and equipment replacement, as well as shoreside infrastructure repair. Unfortunately, these levels were not matched in the final FY22 budget.
Aside from new assets and upgraded facilities, there are other ways to improve the lives of servicemembers, both on land and at sea. I’ve heard from servicemembers across the country about mental health concerns. Their job can take a physical and mental toll which is only exacerbated by 4,000 service member deficit.
We must do more not only to expand mental health services, but also to improve the quality of life for service members, especially those in isolated locations.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the Coast Guard’s efforts to address sexual assault and sexual harassment in the commercial maritime industry.
I was an original cosponsor of the Safer Seas Act and am glad to see that the Coast Guard has acted swiftly to implement the important reforms passed last Congress. We have a long way to go, but I believe under Admiral Fagan’s leadership, we will bring justice to victims and help protect future mariners from harm.
I look forward to today’s testimonies and discussions about how Congress can support a robust Coast Guard.
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