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Gibbs Statement from Hearing to Review Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Program Budgets

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH) from today’s hearing entitled, “Review of Fiscal Year 2020 Budget for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs”:

The United States Coast Guard carries out a broad array of law enforcement, safety, national security, environmental protection, and response missions on waters under the control of the United States.  Unfortunately, both Congress and multiple Administrations dating back to the 1990’s have failed to make investments in the Coast Guard’s infrastructure to allow it to maintain, much less improve, its capabilities to carry out its missions. 

By 2000, the Coast Guard offshore fleet was antiquated.  It has made great strides since then in replacing High Endurance Cutters and Island-class patrol boats with the vastly more capable National Security Cutters and Fast Response Cutters. 

Those successes came at the expense of adequate shoreside infrastructure investment, and a lack of investment in modernizing the databases on which the Service relies for smooth operations.  The Service faces another 15 years of major investments to complete its fleet recapitalization.  It must still build 25 new Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace the Medium Endurance Cutters.  It must also purchase multiple Polar Security Cutters. 

If we expect the Coast Guard to effectively carry out any of its many missions, we cannot continue to defer shoreside and IT investments.  Yet the Administration again seeks a billion dollars less in FY 2020 for acquisition and construction than was appropriated in FY 2019.   I am glad to say the bipartisan leadership of this committee and subcommittee has requested $2.8 billion in acquisition and construction funds for FY 2020. 

I look forward to the Commandant’s views on how he plans to complete the necessary upgrades, replacements, and maintenance of assets.

Additionally, I am pleased to see that the Maritime Administration has requested full funding for the Maritime Security Program.  However, I am interested in how we can close the projected shortfall of merchant mariners needed to assure our national defense sealift capability.  I look forward to discussing that with the Maritime Administrator.

Finally, Congress made changes to ocean shipping laws last year.  I am interested to learn if these changes provided the Commission with the authority to assure that U.S. service providers are treated fairly when negotiating with large international shipping alliances.

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