President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript
Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
February 25, 2015
The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget request from the leaders of the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission.
The President sent Congress a budget that would increase spending by nearly $75 billion over the FY2016 spending cap. As a result, most federal agencies are slated to receive generous increases in spending over current levels, including a nearly 20 percent increase for the Maritime Administration and a 7 percent increase for the Federal Maritime Commission. Yet somehow, even with an additional $75 billion, the President still proposes to cut funding for the Coast Guard. This time by 4 percent below the current level.
The request would slash the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget by 26 percent. The proposed level is at least a billion less than what is required to sustain the acquisition program of record. 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 fourth year in a row, the Administration is playing a reckless game. They propose a budget that cuts funding for the Coast Guard so they can pay for increases at other agencies, betting that Congress will somehow restore the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to sustain Coast Guard acquisitions and front-line operations.
Quite frankly, we’re getting tired of playing this game. Congress is running out of quarters. 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 first time Admiral Zukunft and Master Chief Cantrell appear before us. I want to commend both of them for their leadership and tremendous service to our Nation. I fully understand the situation they’ve been put in with this budget and I appreciate their candor in describing what these cuts will mean for the ability of the Service to successfully conduct its missions.
I also understand the situation Saturday if Congress does not act on an FY 2015 budget for the Department of Homeland Security. I know there will be a lot of questions about the impact a shutdown or a CR may have on the Coast Guard. However, I want to remind everyone that the House passed a bill. It’s now up to the Senate to act. Unfortunately, the Senate minority refuses to even allow a debate on the issue. I hope they understand the urgency of this issue and act as soon as possible.
The budget request for the Maritime Administration represents a nearly 20 percent increase over the current level. Much of the increase comes from a one-time payoff 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. Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, the President proposes to restructure the Food for Peace program. This misguided proposal 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.
Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly come together to vote down this flawed proposal. I hope my colleagues will join me once again in rejecting the President’s proposal and work with me on efforts to strengthen our merchant marine. I look forward to hearing from the Administrator on how he intends to move forward with his efforts to revitalize the U.S. flag fleet.
Finally, the budget request for the Federal Maritime Commission proposes a 7 percent increase in funding over current levels and a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of staff. While this budget increase amounts to less than $2 million, I think it sends the wrong signal. I encourage the Chairman to continue to find ways to operate the Commission as efficiently as possible.
Our nation is facing a very tough budget climate and the President’s unrealistic request only makes things harder. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact a responsible budget.
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