The President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Tuesday, March 15, 2016 @ 10:00 | Contact: Jim Billimoria (202) 225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript

Witness List:
  • Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard; accompanied by Master Chief Steven W. Cantrell, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • The Honorable Paul “Chip” N. Jaenichen, Sr., Administrator, Maritime Administration | Written Testimony
  • The Honorable Mario Cordero, Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission | Written Testimony

  • Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
    Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
    Hearing on “President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request For Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs”

    March 15, 2016
    Opening Statement
    (Remarks as Prepared)

    The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget request from the leaders of the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission.

    For the fifth year in a row, the Coast Guard is seeing funding cuts in the President’s budget request sent to Congress.  The request would slash the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget by 42 percent from the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.  The proposed fiscal year 2017 request is roughly a billion dollars short of what is required to sustain the acquisition program of record.  The underfunding of Coast Guard programs will continue to severely undermine efforts to recapitalize the Service’s aging and failing legacy assets, increase acquisition costs for taxpayers, and seriously degrade mission effectiveness. 

    The Administration is playing a reckless game.  Annual budget requests cut funding for the Coast Guard to pay for increases at other agencies, betting that Congress will not ignore the needs of the Coast Guard and restore the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to sustain its acquisitions and front-line operations.

    This yearly game of chicken is not conducive to recapitalizing the Coast Guard’s fleet or in sustaining its missions.  What is perceived as the Administration’s lack of support for Coast Guard programs makes it difficult to continually fight for funding increases during the appropriation process.  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. 

    Admiral Zukunft and Master Chief Cantrell are here before us today.  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 previous year budget requests 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 is a slight increase of one percent over the current level.  Operations and training and the Ship Disposal Program receive increases in fiscal year 2017. The Administration is again requesting a one-time payoff 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, since fiscal year 2014 the Administration has proposed restructuring 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.

    Members of Congress have repeatedly, in a bipartisan manner, 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, for a second year in a row the budget request for the Federal Maritime Commission proposes a seven percent increase in funding over current levels.  While this budget increase amounts to less than $2 million, it is hard to reconcile with a 42 percent cut in Coast Guard acquisition. Nonetheless, I look forward to receiving from the Commission the explanation that I have requested from the Chairman of the uncontrollable cost increases imposed on the Federal Maritime Commission over the last several years.  

    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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