H.R. 3916 as Amended: Coast Guard Reauthorization

H.R. 3916

Coast Guard Reauthorization

September 29, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

H.R. 3619 as amended is expected to be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This legislation was introduced by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) on April 13, 2010. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 3619 would authorize approximately $10.2 billion for the U.S Coast Guard (USCG), including an estimated $8.8 billion in discretionary funding, nearly half a billion more than the Coast Guards FY2010 budget levels.


The legislation would also modify USCG acquisition practices, place new regulations on certain commercial vessels, alter U.S. port security regulations, and protect operators of a U.S.-flagged ship from liability for using force against any person that participated in an act of piracy.


Title I – Authorization Levels


The bill would authorize the following amounts to be appropriated:

  • $6.971 billion for operation and maintenance;
  • $1.64 billion for acquisition, construction, and improvements;
  • $28 million for research, development, testing, and evaluation of technologies;
  • $1.401 billion for retirement pay;
  • $16 million for alterations or removal of bridges over navigable waters;
  • $13.329 million for environmental compliance and restoration of Coast Guard facilities; and
  • $135.675 million for Coast Guard Reserve Programs.


Title II – Coast Guard


The bill would include a number of administrative and personnel changes to the Coast Guard. Some include the following:

  • Authorizing reimbursement to Coast Guard personnel who live on remote islands for the expenses incurred for travel for medical reasons;
  • Establishing a maximum number of 7,200 commissioned officers;
  • Allowing USCG veterans to access the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) system;
  • Authorizing active duty Coast Guard personnel who are assigned to support a major disaster or spill of significance to retain leave; and
  • Establishing compulsory retirement for commissioned Coast Guard officers.


Title III – Shipping and Navigation


The bill would create a civil penalty of $5,000 for possession of a controlled substance on vessels, and require a plan to deliver merchant mariners’ documents by mail. 


Additionally, the bill would require the USCG and the EPA to study new technology that reduces emission from cargo or passenger vessels; and lastly, the bill would promote measures such as navigation, vessel escort, and spill response capabilities to help ensure safe and secure shipping in the arctic.



Title IV – Acquisition Reform


The bill would respond to issues involving the Coast Guard’s acquisition programs, by doing the following:

  • Requiring the USCG to select a Chief Acquisition Officer who meets acquisition management credentials;
  • Establishing training and experience standards for acquisition personnel; and
  • Requiring the establishment of an Acquisition Directorate to prove guidance and oversight for the implantation and management of the USCG’s acquisition process.


Title V – Coast Guard Modernization


The bill would attempt to modernize the Coast Guard by providing the president with guidelines in regard to reorganizing the USCG’s senior leadership, and establishes center of expertise for members of the Coast Guard.


Additionally, the bill would require the development of a long-term strategy for improving vessel safety, and require the Coast Guard to provide professional courses of study in marine safety.


Title V – Marine Safety


The bill would attempt enhance marine safety, by doing the following:

  • Establishing safety equipment and construction standards for uninspected commercial fishing vessels operating beyond three nautical miles off the coast of the U.S.;
  • Allowing the USCG to require vessel owners of a commercial vessel to maintain records of each individual engaged on the vessel;
  • Authorizing the Coast Guard to terminate the operation of certain vessels for unsafe conduct;
  • Prohibiting approval of survival craft as a safety device unless the craft ensures that no part of an individual is immersed in water; and
  • Allowing seamen who are subject to discrimination to file a complaint to the Department of Labor.


Title V – Oil Pollution Prevention


H.R. 3916 would attempt to reduce the risk of oil spills by requiring the USCG to promulgate regulations to help reduce the risks of oil spills and requiring a study on the type of human errors that cause oil spills.


The legislation would stipulate that any owner of oil being transported in a single-hulled tank vessel would be liable for oils. 


Lastly, the bill would require tank vessels for 100 gorss tons or more to prove financial responsibility to cover oil spills.


Title VIII – Port Security


The bill would enhance port and cargo security, by doing the following:


  • Establishing the Waterway Watch program to promote voluntary reporting of activities that may indicate a threat or an act of terrorism by an individual;
  • Requiring the establishment of a pilot program to test Transportation Worker Identification Credentials to control technologies at port facilities;
  • Establishing a deployable specialized forces of varying capabilities as needed to safeguard the public and protect vessels, harbors, ports, facilities, and cargo;
  • Establishing a program for the mobile biometric identification of suspected individuals, including terrorists;
  • Prohibiting approval of port facility security plans for new facilities unless the USCG determines that sufficient security resources are available; and
  • Allowing the USCG to increase the capacity of canine teams for security purposes.


Title IX – Miscellaneous Provisions


The bill would make a number of miscellaneous changes, including the following:


  • Permitting the USCG to issues waivers for certain documentation to specified vessels;
  • Limiting the total amount to be paid with respect to all claims in a class action suit by seamen on a passenger vessel capable of carrying more than 500 passengers for wages against a vessel;
  • Requiring the USCG to submit to Congress a report on its comprehensive strategy to combat the illicit flow of narcotics, weapons, bulk cash, and other contraband through the use of submersible and semi-submersible vessels;
  • Permitting individuals to use force to defend a vessel of the U.S. against an act of piracy without being liable for monetary damages for an injury or death.


Title X – Clean Hulls


The bill would align U.S. law with the International Convention on the Control of Harmful AntiFouling Systems on Ships by prohibiting the sale, distribution, or manufacture of organotin or anifouling systems containing organotin (organotin is a chemical that inhibits the growth of marine organisms), and establishing civil penalties for vessels violating this provision in regard to organotin



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. The Coast Guard is composed of approximately 40,000 active duty military personnel, 8,100 reservists, 6,700 civilian employees, and 36,000 volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Possible Member Concerns:

Members may be concerned with the large increase in discretionary spending.  This bill, according to the legislative text, would provide $8.8 billion in discretionary spending for FY2011, nearly $300 million more than FY2010, and $350 million more than the president requested for FY2011.


There is currently no CBO score for the bill.  However, authorization levels within the bill provide $10.2 billion for FY2011, including $8.8 billion for discretionary spending, nearly $300 billion more than FY2010.  [This section will be updated with an official CBO estimate once it is available].