H.R. 2838: Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011

H.R. 2838

Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011

Date
November 4, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Friday, November 4, 2011, the House is scheduled to begin consideration of H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, under a rule.  The rule provides for one hour of general debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Additionally, the rule provides for 10 minutes of debate for each of the 18 amendments made in order, as well as one motion to recommit.  The rule further provides that it shall be in order at any time on the legislative day of November 4, 2011, for the Speaker to entertain motions that the House suspend the rules relating to a measure addressing the applicability of the coastwise trade laws.  H.R. 2838 was introduced by Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ) on September 2, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Bill Summary

H.R. 2838 would authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard through fiscal year 2014, and for the Federal Maritime Commission through fiscal year 2015.  In total, the bill would authorize $25.7 billion for U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) operations.

TITLE I—AUTHORIZATION

Coast Guard Authorization Levels:

Operation and maintenance of the Coast Guard:

  • $6,819,505,000 for fiscal year 2012,
  • $6,922,645,000 for fiscal year 2013, and
  • $7,018,499,000 for fiscal year 2014.

 

Acquisition, construction, rebuilding, and improvement of aids to navigation, shore and offshore facilities, vessels, and aircraft, including related equipment thereto:

  • $1,503,980,000 for fiscal year 2012,
  • $1,505,312,000 for fiscal year 2013, and
  • $1,506,549,000 for fiscal year 2014.

 

The Coast Guard Reserve program, including personnel and training costs, equipment, and services:

  • $136,778,000 for fiscal year 2012,
  • $138,111,000 for fiscal year 2013, and
  • $139,311,000 for fiscal year 2014.

 

Environmental compliance and restoration of Coast Guard vessels, aircraft, and facilities (other than parts and equipment associated with operation and maintenance):

  • $16,699,000 for fiscal year 2012,
  • $16,699,000 for fiscal year 2013, and
  • $16,700,000 for fiscal year 2014.

 

To the Commandant of the Coast Guard for research, development, test, and evaluation of technologies, materials, and human factors directly related to improving the performance of the Coast Guard's mission in search and rescue, aids to navigation, marine safety, marine environmental protection, enforcement of laws and treaties, ice operations, oceanographic research, and defense readiness:

  • $19,779,000 for fiscal year 2012,
  • $19,848,000 for fiscal year 2013, and
  • $19,913,000 for fiscal year 2014.

Other provisions: The bill would authorize end-of-year strength for active duty personnel of 47,000 for fiscal years 2012-2014.  It would also require a policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence be prescribed for cadets and other Academy personnel, and would prohibit the Secretary of the respective department in which the Coast Guard is operating from expending more than $1.5 million from amounts available for operating expenses for minor construction and improvement projects at any one location.

TITLE II—COAST GUARD AND SERVICEMEMBER PARITY

 

Sec. 204. Minor construction:  This section would authorize the Coast Guard to expend not more than $1,500,000 from amounts available for the operating expenses for unspecified minor construction and improvement projects at any one location. It would also require the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to the Committee on each project undertaken during the course of the preceding fiscal year for which the amounts expended exceeded $500,000.

Sec. 205. Treatment of reports of aircraft accident investigations:  This section would establish guidelines for public disclosure of aircraft accident investigation reports, and prohibit the use of accident investigators' opinions in civil and criminal proceedings or as an admission of liability. 

Sec. 207. Coast guard housing report: This section would require the Commandant to submit a report to the Committee on the condition of Coast Guard servicemember housing. 

 

TITLE III—COAST GUARD REFORM

 

Sec. 302. Interference with Coast Guard transmissions:  This section would make the knowing and willful interference with Coast Guard transmissions a class-E felony offense. The Coast Guard has testified before the Committee that its ability to conduct its vital missions including protecting the safety of life at sea is entirely dependent on being able to send and receive radio and microwave signals over its network. Interference with those signals places lives in danger. As nearly all navigation is now electronic, this provision is the logical extension of the penalties for offenses related to interfering or tampering with Aids to Navigation.

Sec. 303. National security cutters:  This section would prohibit the Commandant from going to production on a sixth national security cutter on any date before which the Commandant has acquired a sufficient number of Long Range Interceptor II and Cutter Boat Over the Horizon IV small boats for each of the first three national security cutters, implemented a system to achieve the goal of 225 days away from homeport for two national security cutters, and submitted a plan to provide the national security cutters with advance aerial surveillance support.  Additionally, the Commandant would not be allowed to begin production on the seventh national security cutter until the Service has selected an OPC. The OPC is intended to replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of medium endurance cutters. According to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Service is years behind schedule on the development of the OPC, and still does not have an approved baseline cost estimate in place for the program.

Sec. 309. Limitation on expenditures:  This section would limit expenditures on certain Coast Guard programs which provide assistance to foreign nations to $100,000 annually.

 

TITLE IV—SHIPPING AND NAVIGATION

 

Sec. 401. Committee on the Marine Transportation System: This section would provide a formal authorization to the existing interagency Committee on the Marine Transportation System. It also would also require the Committee to provide Congress with a strategy on ways to improve the Marine Transportation System every five years.

Sec. 404. Recourse for noncitizens: This section would clarify that a foreign citizen may file a personal injury lawsuit in a U.S. court only if the accident occurred in U.S. waters, aboard a U.S. vessel, or the claimant is a permanent resident alien and does not have a right to bring suit in his country of residence or the flag state of the vessel from which the claim arose. The provision would not require a trial in, or under the laws of, the Unites States for any injury, illness or death to any foreign seaman engaged aboard a foreign passenger vessel.

 

TITLE V—FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION

 

Sec. 501. Authorization of appropriations:  This section would authorize funding for the Federal Maritime Commission at $22,100,000 for each of the fiscal years 2012 through 2015, the same level appropriated in fiscal year 2008.

 

TITLE VI—MISCELLANEOUS

 

Sec. 602. Report on Coast Guard merchant mariner medical evaluation program:  This section would require the Commandant to report to the Committee on the present merchant mariner medical evaluation program and alternatives to the program. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is concerned the current program is unduly burdensome on U.S. mariners, is not equipped to handle the expected demand of moving to a two year licensing regime called for under the amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping recently adopted by the International Maritime Organization, and is not consistent with similar medical review programs in other transportation modes.

Sec. 608. Standby vessels:  This section would require the operators of offshore drilling platforms to contract for vessels to be in the area of the platform to perform evacuations.

 

Background

The United States Coast Guard is one of the five armed services of the United States, and was established by Congress in 1915 upon the merging of the Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Lifesaving Service.  The legal basis for the Coast Guard is Title 14 of the United States Code, which states: “The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.”  The Coast Guard later moved to the Department of Transportation in 1967, and on February 25, 2003, it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.  The Coast Guard’s stated mission is to protect the public, the environment, and the United States economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), appropriating the amounts authorized by H.R. 2838 “would result in discretionary spending of about $24.4 billion over the 2012-2016 period.”  The CBO estimate “excludes $25 million that would be derived from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) for USCG operating and research expenses because that amount is already authorized under existing law.”  This legislation does not affect direct spending or revenues, therefore pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

 

In addition, H.R. 2838 would impose a private-sector mandate on owners and operators of offshore facilities used in the production of oil and gas. Based on information from the Department of the Interior and industry sources, CBO estimates that the aggregate cost of the mandate would probably exceed the annual threshold established in UMRA for private-sector mandates ($142 million in 2011, adjusted annually for inflation).

Amendments

Amendment No. 1—Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ): This amendment would add a new section to the underlying legislation which would authorize the Secretary to extend the duration of medical certificates issued to merchant mariners.  The amendment would also require the Coast Guard to study the efficacy of requiring the carriage of certain survival craft.  The amendment would also add a new title providing new authorities to suppress the threat of piracy and protect U.S. vessels and mariners transiting high risk waters.

 

Amendment No. 2—Rep. Shuler (D-NC): This amendment would require the Coast Guard to give priority to persons that manufacture materials, parts, and components in the United States when entering into contracts and placing orders.

 

Amendment No. 3—Rep. Cummings (D-MD): This amendment would strike a provision that would eliminate an existing statutory requirement that the Coast Guard appoint an ombudsman in each Coast Guard District.

 

Amendment No. 4—Rep. Thompson (D-MS): This amendment would add a new section to the end of Title II in the bill to open admissions to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to eligible candidates nominated by Congress. Specifically, the amendment would require the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that, beginning in academic year 2014, half of the incoming class is composed of eligible candidates nominated by the Vice President or, if there is no Vice President, by the President pro tempore of the Senate; Senators; Representatives; and Delegates to the House of Representatives.

 

Amendment No. 5—Rep. Palazzo (R-MS): This amendment would strike section 303 of the bill which places restrictions on the future contracting and construction of the United States Coast Guard National Security Cutter.

 

Amendment No. 6—Rep. Napolitano (D-CA): This amendment would give distant water tuna vessels in the Western Pacific Ocean the option of using Guam as their required port of call in order to meet U.S. maritime regulations.

 

Amendment No. 7—Rep. Bishop (D-NY): This amendment would provide states the authority to impose more protective operational requirements on the discharge of ballast water within state resource waters.

 

Amendment No. 8—Reps. Dingell (D-MI) and Slaughter (D-NY): This amendment would strike Title VII of the bill.

 

Amendment No. 9—Reps. Huizenga (R-MI), Petri (R-WI), and Benishek (R-MI): This amendment would freeze the Environmental Protection Agency's current vessel discharge regulatory framework for certain vessels of historic significance.

 

Amendment No. 10—Rep. Olson (R-TX): This amendment would require the Commandant of the Coast Guard in consultation with appropriate representatives of industry to conduct a feasibility study to determine the capability, cost, and benefits of requiring the owner or operator of a manned facility, installation, unit, or vessel to locate a standby vessel nearby.

 

Amendment No. 11—Rep. McIntyre (D-NC): This amendment would add to the purpose section of the establishment of the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (Section 401) that it coordinate with local businesses to promote an efficient marine transportation system.

 

Amendment No. 12—Rep. Cummings (D-MD): This amendment would expand the information the Maritime Administration is required to include in the determinations it makes of the availability of qualified United States flag capacity to carry cargo between two points in the United States when a waiver of Jones Act requirements pertaining to such carriage is sought.

 

Amendment No. 13—Rep. Landry (R-LA): This amendment would clarify Coast Guard guidance regarding the ability of U.S. flagged offshore supply vessels to carry unlimited amounts of Grade D and Grade E cargo (combustible liquid) when said vessel is operating outside of U.S. waters, provided the vessel meets the safety requirements of the International Maritime Organization.

 

Amendment No. 14—Rep. McCaul (R-TX): This amendment would prohibit the U.S. Coast Guard from delegating vessel inspections from organizations that also provide these services of behalf of any State Sponsor of Terrorism-such as Iran, Sudan and Syria.

 

Amendment No. 15—Rep. Pierluisi (D-PR): This amendment would clarify the application of the Passenger Vessel Services Act to vessels operating in Puerto Rico that are not otherwise qualified to transport passengers for hire and that are more than 100 gross tons. The amendment would also allow such vessels to transport passengers between ports in Puerto Rico-a non-contiguous jurisdiction of multiple islands.

 

Amendment No. 16—Rep. Murphy (D-CT): This amendment would give manufacturers the opportunity to provide information to contracting officers regarding how their bid for a contract will affect domestic employment. The amendment would also allow the Coast Guard to take this information into consideration, but would not mandate that the Coast Guard consider this information when awarding the contract.

 

Amendment No. 17—Rep. Brown (D-FL): This amendment would prohibit the Army Corp of Engineers from applying any additional peer review studies to the Jacksonville Port dredging project.

 

Amendment No. 18—Rep. Ribble (R-WI): This amendment would change the legislative description of a commercial vessel to include all federally owned and operated vessels, exempting military, Department of Defense, and Coast Guard vessels. This amendment would also require all federal government vessels, except for those exempted as previously mentioned, to comply with the same ballast water rules and regulations with which the private sector must comply.