As chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, I am proud to be an unwavering defender of the Jones Act — a critical U.S. national security law that requires vessels moving from one U.S. port to another must be U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed.
The Jones Act, in fact, is the quintessential definition of “Buy American, Hire American.” It’s also a point that President Trump, along with his national security and economic teams, would be well-served to recognize in the effort to revive American industry and capability.
While often conflated by foreign interests, the Jones Act ensures that vessels and workers engaged in coastwise trade are U.S.-compliant while providing domestic shipbuilding and mariner capacity to support our armed forces at times of war.
Underscoring the wide reach and necessity of the Jones Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Officer Michael Herbert recently spoke to a group of maritime executives outlining the unique national security challenges his office faces when policing the Gulf of Mexico. He addressed the inherent difficulties in trying to police and protect the more than 95,000 miles of coastline in the United States.
In his remarks, Officer Herbert spoke about the importance of the Jones Act and its critical role in protecting the homeland first and foremost. In the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, this law also applies to vessels servicing the offshore platforms that deliver our nation’s energy supplies — exactly the type of critical infrastructure that CBP and others are committed to protecting.
Because of this, the Jones Act has been supported by every modern president and has explicit support from our nation’s Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy leadership. To further emphasize this crucial maritime capacity, CBP recently established the Jones Act Division of Enforcement (JADE) in New Orleans to support the office in ensuring vessel compliance.
Going even further, with the intent to ensure foreign crews are prevented from gaining access to our most precious and integral infrastructure, CBP issued a revocation of previous letter rulings affecting offshore service vessels that allowed foreign companies and crews to take advantage of a loophole and circumvent the build and staffing requirements of the Jones Act.
Naturally, foreign entities are now upset that their loophole has been closed and are making unfounded claims to pressure on the CBP to drop the revocation.
The fact of the matter is that if the revocation proceeds, as it should, there will be 3,200 U.S. jobs generated in the Gulf of Mexico alone with absolutely no disruption of offshore energy exploration and production. The added benefit of these jobs means that an estimated additional 1,000 mariners will be qualified to help the U.S. Ready Reserve Fleet, which is activated in times of war to move military cargo to war zones.
Further delay or termination of the revocation, as desired by these foreign entities, would reward foreign workers and companies who are skirting U.S. labor and tax requirements. Not only that, doing so would negate the more than $2 billion that U.S. offshore companies have invested to expand their fleets to meet the capacity requirements of this market.
Put another way, foreign workers will continue to exploit this loophole and potentially gain access to our critical energy infrastructure with no oversight from CBP or the U.S. Coast Guard.
As Officer Herbert rightly noted, “There’s no way that we could enforce our national security laws without the Jones Act.”
The choice comes down to supporting U.S. mariners and shipyard workers, keeping U.S. critical energy infrastructure safe with no disruption to our offshore energy exploration and production and in compliance with U.S. law, or allowing foreign interests to prevail in undermining all of the above.
CBP’s intent to uphold the extraordinary importance of the Jones Act should be commended. No different, it’s in America’s interests to recognize the significance of the Jones Act in strengthening U.S. maritime and national security.Read More
Any time attention is called to America’s Armed Forces, it’s often the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force that are recognized for their professionalism and unmatchable mission capability. Each of these services deserves the praise and admiration they receive, but there’s one armed force that is regularly overlooked as an equally essential defender of U.S. national security: the U.S. Coast Guard.
Among all its counterparts, the Coast Guard is uniquely developed in form and function as an organization with both military and law enforcement applications. That by no means makes the Coast Guard less relevant. To the contrary, it provokes greater appreciation for the only service that is tasked to protect America’s shores from migrants, criminals and hostile actors.
Under this tasking, the Coast Guard has earned its reputation as America’s first line of defense. But as an element under the leadership structure of the Department of Homeland Security, the service has been somewhat pigeonholed as a law enforcement entity no different than Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When in actuality and affirmed by statute, the Coast Guard is a military service first and foremost, and it deserves to be treated like one.
Acknowledging but putting aside the fact that the Coast Guard interdicts more cocaine at sea than all other domestic law enforcement agencies combined, as well as the national security exposure that exists from sea-based transit routes, the Coast Guard remains an important component of the modern Joint Force.
In the Caribbean, for instance, the Coast Guard has almost exclusively undertaken the dangerous security mission once dominated by the Navy. And in the Persian Gulf, Coast Guard cutters are supporting U.S. Central Command.
Along with these responsibilities and others, the Coast Guard has a unique Artic mission much different than the Navy. That mission involves not only research, reconnaissance, and search and rescue. It also puts the Coast Guard in the lead to clear sea lanes by breaking ice in order to provide assured Arctic access for strategic and commercial interests. In direct competition but far ahead of U.S. efforts is Russia, which has amassed 40-icebreaking vessels compared to only two operational vessels in the U.S. inventory.
There’s an aggressive move affront to accelerate the acquisition of heavy and medium icebreakers for this reason, although progress has not been smooth and without setback. In large part, the challenges facing icebreaker acquisition are indicative of a bigger problem facing the Coast Guard and why it’s time to consider moving the service out of DHS and to DoD, where it really belongs.
For the Coast Guard, its predominant challenge is funding. The service is on a shoestring budget at approximately $9 billion and has been constrained year-in and year-out from increasing in size and strength. As an element within DHS, the Coast Guard is categorized for funding as “nondefense discretionary,” which means it’s funded no different than the Federal Emergency Management Agency or any other nondefense centric organization. It’s also why the Coast Guard was targeted for a $1.3 billion cut in preliminary budget guidance for the next fiscal year.
This has put the Coast Guard and the nation at a severe disadvantage. In order just to kick-start icebreaker development, the Navy was needed to step in for purposes of providing initial funding and shipbuilding expertise. However, with so many priorities of its own and costs to match, the Navy will be unable to sustain its contributions in this area, never mind others necessary to uphold the Joint Force mission.
The same goes for drones, which the Coast Guard has been desperate to acquire while remaining tied to CBP’s air program and often denied use of limited assets due to other operational demands along the land border. Without funding and proper support, this arranged marriage will continue and the Coast Guard will not gain any new advantages where needed — just more setbacks.
If there’s a silver lining for the Coast Guard right now it’s that DHS Secretary John Kelly values and understands its mission and has committed to fight for its interests. But what will happen to the Coast Guard under the next secretary or a new administration? The risk to the nation is too significant to wait and see in the hope that a cultural transformation holds.
A review of the federal government’s organization is underway to determine opportunities for consolidation in order to make the federal government more efficient. The recommendation has been made to consider moving the Coast Guard to DoD where it can receive better and more consistent advocacy. If President Trump truly wants to make America’s military more effective and achieve better bang for the buck, then one of his first directives should be to solidify the Coast Guard status as a military service by putting it in its rightful place.Read More
The authorization by President Donald Trump to launch dozens of Tomahawk missiles at targets in Syria signaled to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rest of the world that America’s tolerance for provocations and threats has finally waned.
No longer should we expect meaningless red lines or disadvantageous diplomatic pursuits that have an emboldening effect on adversaries that have either viewed America as weak or sought to attack the nation’s interests. In just a few short months, President Trump has been decisive and unapologetic, whereas his predecessor was just the opposite.
Already, President Trump has put Iran and North Korea on notice. And with such a highly qualified and reliable national security team at his side, he’s released the shackles on the U.S. military that have constrained mission effectiveness and success. This change in approach was even seen and felt by terror networks staged in Afghanistan recently when the so-called “Mother of all Bombs” was dropped without warning.
All of this must not be confused for some shoot-from-the-hip, cowboy mentality. The action taken against the Syrian regime, following its latest use of chemical weapons against its own, is proof of that fact. The missile strike was surgical and intended to prevent or disrupt any possibility for another chemical weapons attack. For that reason alone, the right call was made.
In some ways, the challenge with Syria is not unlike the challenges presented by other nation states getting the watchful eye of the U.S. and the Western world. But each security challenge created by nations like Iran, North Korea, China and Russia are unique in their own way and a one-size-fits-all endeavor is as unworkable as it is dangerous to order and peace.
For Syria in particular, there’s no single solution within immediate reach to transform that nation into either a Western-aligned nation-state or create a structural and cultural shift in governance to incite the changes necessary to reduce or eliminate the challenges that exist. Among them is Syria’s strong relationship with Russia—one of our biggest geopolitical rivals—and the extent to which their alliance is a counterweight to advancements by the Islamic State in a region of the world that is already volatile and under siege.
A good way forward for President Trump and his national security team is to now leverage the missile strike to force Assad to the negotiation table in order to establish a reasonable path to peace. Contingent should be the welcoming of an objective and independent inspection team to have a closer look at the claims and counter-claims around the use of chemical weapons—to ascertain the facts and inform any subsequent push for accountability and consequence to the furthest degree possible.
Any suggestion of submitting a ground force into Syria or initiating operations to remove Assad from power is a failure to learn the lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be done, but at tremendous cost, including lives. Much like Iraq will never mirror the U.S. in politics and culture, we should not presume that Syria’s population centers could one day resemble a place like San Diego, California, or that a Syrian government is capable of one day resembling what we’ve come to know and expect from our own political institutions.
It’s not to say that progress in this direction is impossible, but to pretend it’s doable in short order and won’t demand significant sacrifice from the U.S. and a global coalition is short-sighted and risks opening the door for unintended ramifications. And in the absence of Assad, we must also ask who would be next. It’s a question to which there is no answer.
As things stand now, the president did the right thing in deploying U.S. military might and he did it by exercising “Tomahawk diplomacy” to achieve an initial objective. Next to consider is how this one event can be utilized to get Assad to come forward with the understanding that not only is there a new sheriff in town with President Trump, but also too that the U.S. will no longer be a bystander as chemical weapons are used to kill innocent people or threats are issued.
Through this lens and approach, the U.S. can begin seeking changes without perhaps any further military engagement. Even as the option of additional military force must exist, a message to the Syrian regime that it’s in its interests to negotiate and cease its attacks in the aftermath of a missile strike would most likely be met by a willingness to come forward out of fear of what might happen should they not.Read More
Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter announced that for Fiscal Year 2018, he will not submit any federal appropriations requests on behalf of states, cities, universities or other entities that have an ordinance, policy or practice in place that undermines the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
“Sanctuaries that defy federal immigration laws should be held accountable,” said Representative Hunter. “If a state or local entity prefers to violate the law and not cooperate on federal immigration matters, this should be an immediate disqualifier for federal funding.
“Members of Congress share a responsibility to ensure jurisdictions and entities within their Congressional Districts are abiding by the law. The submission of a federal funding request for sanctuaries is irresponsible and rewards disregard for the law—and I can’t support that. It’s my hope that many of my colleagues will take this same approach when considering funding requests for the next fiscal year.”
Last Congress, Hunter’s legislation—H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act—was passed by the House on July 23, 2015, by a vote of 241-179. More recently, Hunter introduced the No Funding for Sanctuary Campuses Act, which denies Title IV funding to sanctuary campuses.Read More
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Congressman Duncan D. Hunter represents California’s 50th Congressional District consisting of East and Northern County San Diego. In 2008, Hunter was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives, succeeding his father, Duncan L. Hunter, who retired after serving 14 consecutive terms in Congress.
Hunter is a native of San Diego. He graduated from Granite Hills High School in El Cajon and earned a degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University. Hunter worked to pay for his education by creating websites and programming databases and ecommerce systems for high-tech companies. Immediately after graduation, he went to work full time in San Diego as a Business Analyst.
Soon after our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, Hunter quit his job and joined the United States Marine Corps. Hunter entered active service as a Lieutenant in 2002 and excelled in the area of field artillery, much like his grandfather, Robert O. Hunter, who was a Marine Corps artillery officer in World War II.
Over the course of his service career, Hunter served three combat tours overseas: two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In 2003, Hunter deployed to Iraq with the 1st Marine Division. Hunter completed his second tour in 2004, where he and his fellow Marines were at the center of combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.
In September 2005, four years after he quit his job and joined the Marine Corps, Hunter was honorably discharged from active military service and started a successful residential development company. Still a Marine Reservist, he was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2006, and to the rank of Major in 2012.
Less than two years before Hunter was elected, he was recalled to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan. Hunter returned home after more than six months on the front lines and, with the support of the San Diego community, became the first Marine combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan elected to Congress.
Hunter is a strong conservative who is committed to strengthening national security, enforcing our borders, creating opportunities for American workers and protecting the interests of taxpayers. He is also a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, protecting traditional marriage and the rights of the unborn.
Congressman Hunter and his wife live in Alpine, California. They are the proud parents of three children: Duncan, Elizabeth and Sarah.