Hunter Statement from Hearing on President's Budget for Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Programs
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request For Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs”
March 26, 2014
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request from the leaders of the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission.
The President has sent Congress yet another budget proposing to cut funding for the Coast Guard, this time by more than $360 million, or four percent below the FY 2014 enacted level. The request would cut the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget by $291 million, or 21 percent. The President’s request proposes to delay the acquisition of critically needed replacement assets, such as the Fast Response Cutter. It will severely undermine efforts to recapitalize the Service’s aging and failing legacy assets, increase acquisition costs for taxpayers, and seriously degrade mission effectiveness.
For the fiscal year 2015 operating budget, the President proposes to slash the number of Coast Guard servicemembers and Reservists by over 1,300, and reduce hazardous duty pay for servicemembers. It would also exacerbate gaps in readiness by cutting programmed hours for aircraft, and jeopardize the success of the search and rescue mission by taking fixed-wing aircraft crews off alert status.
This is the third year in a row the President has forced the Coast Guard to sacrifice mission success to pay for his questionable spending at other agencies. And, once again, Congress is being forced to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars just to sustain Coast Guard front-line operations. The Administration needs to understand that the Coast Guard cannot continue to do more with less. If the President is going to continue to propose these cuts year after year, he needs to tell us how he intends to rescope the missions of the Coast Guard to reflect his reduced budgets.
This is the last time Admiral Papp and Master Chief Leavitt will appear before us. I want to commend both of you for your leadership and tremendous service to our Nation. Admiral, I fully understand the situation you’ve been put in with this budget and I appreciate your candor in describing what these cuts will mean for the ability of the Service to successfully conduct its missions.
The budget request for the Maritime Administration represents a 75 percent increase over the current level. However, the increase comes as a result of an accounting change in Ready Reserve Fleet funding, and from a one-time subsidy offered to the maritime industry in exchange for a permanent reduction in the number of U.S. mariner jobs carrying cargo under the hugely successful Food for Peace program.
Since 1954, the Food for Peace program has provided agricultural commodities grown by U.S. farmers and transported by U.S. mariners on U.S.-flagged vessels to those threatened by starvation throughout the world. The President’s restructuring of Food for Peace will eliminate a vital program for our farmers, put U.S. mariners out of work, and undermine our national security by reducing the domestic sealift capacity on which our military depends.
I would add that the President’s attempt to placate the concerns of U.S. mariners by temporarily throwing some additional money at the Maritime Security Program will not work. As we did last year, I hope my colleagues will join me once again in rejecting the President’s misguided proposal.
I am also concerned that the budget again zeroes out funding for Title XI and other U.S. flag promotional programs that are at the core of the Maritime Administration’s mission. I look forward to hearing from the acting administrator on how he intends to move forward with his efforts to revitalize the U.S. flag fleet under this budget.
Finally, the budget request for the Federal Maritime Commission proposes a $991,000, or four percent, increase over current levels. That increase will sustain current staffing levels at the Commission and help it continue with its acquisition of a new information technology system. I encourage the Chairman to continue to review the operations of the Commission to find savings through efficiencies.
Our nation is facing a very tough budget climate. This Congress must work together to find savings wherever possible. I look forward to working with my colleagues to achieve this goal in a responsible manner.
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