March 01, 2011

Subcommittee Panel Examines Budget Requests for U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration, Federal Maritime Commissio

Washington, D.C. – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today held an oversight hearing on the Administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget requests for the Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, and Federal Maritime Commission.

The Subcommittee received testimony from Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., Commandant, United States Coast Guard; Master Chief Michael P. Leavitt, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard; The Honorable Richard A. Lidinsky Jr., Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission; and The Honorable David T. Matsuda, Administrator, Maritime Administration.

Below is the opening statement of U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, as prepared for delivery:

U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA)
Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Opening Statement at Hearing on
“A Review of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Requests for the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Maritime Commission, and Federal Maritime Administration; Finding Ways To Do More with Less”

Mr. Chairman, thank you for conducting today’s subcommittee hearing.  I welcome the opportunity to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposals for the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission.

Maritime transportation remains a critical component of our national economy contributing over $10 billion annually and generating nearly 270,000 jobs.  Today’s message is clear: we must continue to invest wisely to facilitate, protect and regulate maritime commerce if we want to see the U.S. economy expand and flourish.

Mr. Chairman, I have a great deal of interest in how Congress spends our taxpayers’ money and saves taxpayers’ money.  There may be a practical reality that forces hardworking public servants to do more with less.  However, today’s testimony shows plainly that less will get done.  

Regrettably, too much emphasis is currently being placed on “how much can we cut?” rather than the more appropriate question, which is “how can we best direct Federal resources to generate economic growth and spur job creation?”

It is our responsibility to ensure that those maritime agencies which oversee fair and competitive shipping practices, that respond to disastrous oil spills or assist vessels in distress, or that retain a secure fleet of ships to support overseas deployment of our armed service have the necessary resources to fulfill their respective missions.

Supporters and critics of the Coast Guard contend that its budget is insufficient for the demands placed on the Service’s nearly 50,000 military and civilian full-time employees.

Commandant Papp, you acknowledged in your recent 2011 State of the Coast Guard Address that “the Coast Guard does not have the resources to perform at 100 percent in every one of (its) missions on every given day.”  You went on to say, “’More with Less’ is not an acceptable option – without continued recapitalization, we will NOT be Semper Paratus.”

I am not convinced that the budget request for the Coast Guard before us today is adequate to meet the demands that we have placed upon the Service.  I am interested in hearing how my colleagues expect the Service to do “more with less” and what trade-offs they would find acceptable.

The Maritime Administration is in a similar situation.  MARAD has two critical investment programs that support our domestic shipbuilding industry that are both targeted for reduction.

First, the Title XI guaranteed loan program provides Federally-guaranteed loans for purchasers of U.S. flag ships built or reconstructed by the U.S. shipbuilding industry and for the modernization of U.S. shipyards. Vessels constructed under the Title XI program contribute to the ability of the United States to carry its foreign and domestic waterborne commerce, help sustain efficient shipbuilding facilities, and help preserve a skilled shipbuilding workforce.

No new funds for loan guarantees are requested for FY 2012.  Of the unrequested amounts made available in FY 2009 and FY 2010, $54.1 million is proposed for cancellation.  These proposals effectively kill these investments that generate good paying jobs here in America.

Second, the budget requests no additional funds for the Assistance to Small Shipyards program.  Similar to the Title XI program, these funds invest in American port infrastructure, create American jobs, and help domestic shipyards, such as Nichols Brothers Boat Builders located in Freeland, Washington make the necessary capital investments to remain competitive and generate new business.

Mr. Chairman, these cuts will not result in “less with more”, but with “less with less.”  I know there is a strong desire to cut Federal spending.  And I agree that we must bring discipline to the Nation’s fiscal house, but I urge that we temper that effort with reason and sound judgment.

As our hearing on the BP oil spill in February demonstrated, when government does not have the resources and will to carry out its responsibilities, lives are lost and the economy and the environment suffer.

Despite the tight budgets called for in the FY 2012 budget, I am pleased that the administration has proposed a modest increase for the Federal Maritime Commission.  In light of the important role of the Commission in monitoring world shipping practices, especially the growing Transpacific trade, I will want to hear from Chairman Lidinsky on how the Commission intends to use new funding to support U.S. exports, ensure fair competition, and protect American consumers.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, the Congress has recognized since the founding of our Republic that our Nation’s economic prosperity is interwoven with maritime commerce.

The maritime agencies before us today carry on that legacy of Federal support for our domestic maritime industry and for oversight of maritime commerce that produces annually billions of dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs.

America does not want “less with less,” what America wants is an efficient and effective Federal Government.  When it comes to maritime commerce that should be an objective on which we can all agree.