Hunter Statement from Hearing on Coast Guard Program Implementation
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “Implementation of Coast Guard Programs”
March 7, 2018
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is convening today to examine the implementation of certain Coast Guard programs, including those involving performance monitoring, the Service’s Capital Investment Plan, and commercial fishing vessel safety.
It is important that Congress understands the Coast Guard’s ability to meet its missions. The Coast Guard conducts search and rescue, drug interdiction, and defense readiness activities on a daily basis, yet it is unclear how the Service tracks these activities. Members of the Committee rely on the Service to report its performance to Congress and the public. To ensure a full understanding of the Service’s abilities, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2016 required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look at whether the Coast Guard’s annual performance goals and reported performance information accurately reflects the extent to which the Service is accomplishing its mission responsibilities. GAO found that Coast Guard goals do not address all mission activities and that the Service does not sufficiently report its performance goals and actual performance.
In addition to recognizing the degree to which the Coast Guard is able to accomplish its missions today, it is also critical that the Committee understands how the Service plans to do so in the future. The Capital Investment Plan (CIP) is supposed to reflect the capital investments necessary to meet mission requirements in the future. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard submits the CIP late every year, precluding its use to properly inform appropriation and authorization legislation. When a CIP is finally delivered, its profile often does not align with the needs of the Service as reported by the Commandant and other senior leaders. The Coast Guard says it needs new cutters and aircraft, yet the CIP contains outdated information that does not include funding to match those stated needs. As a glaring example, despite an over $1.5 billion funding shortfall to build and maintain shore infrastructure, the Coast Guard regularly requests only nominal funding – $10 million in fiscal year 2018 and $30 million in fiscal year 2019 – for shore infrastructure projects.
Rather than providing the information necessary to understand and support Service priorities, the Coast Guard relies on Congress to set those priorities by appropriating funding above the requested levels. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has failed to adjust acquisition documents to reflect the funding for additional assets, lessening the reliability and value of the information provided in the CIP. The Coast Guard’s failure to ensure CIP investment levels accurately reflect its mission requirements and prior appropriations leave Congress without reliable information on which to base future appropriations and perform proper oversight.
One Coast Guard mission area on which Congress has provided significant direction is commercial fishing vessel safety. Congressional requirements regarding the construction and maintenance of commercial fishing vessels were enacted in 1988 and expanded in 2010, 2012, and 2016. In addition, Congress directed the Coast Guard to implement regulations regarding vessel classification requirements and establish alternate safety compliance programs to allow smaller and older vessels to comply with requirements more suited to their unique characteristics.
Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has failed to act on those directives. Instead, in 2016, the Coast Guard developed an Enhanced Oversight Program, using existing policy and authorities, focusing on older non-classed fishing vessels that may have an increased risk of vessel and crew loss. At the same time, the Committee heard concerns from the commercial fishing industry regarding the lack of communication from the Coast Guard on the development of required alternate safety compliance programs. The Enhanced Oversight Program did not alleviate those concerns, due to questions about that Program being permanent or temporary, and if temporary, whether the Coast Guard would work with industry to develop the alternate safety compliance programs required by law.
GAO reviewed the Coast Guard’s implementation of commercial fishing vessel classification requirements and its impact on new vessel construction and will provide testimony on their findings today. I look forward to hearing from the Coast Guard on where the Service stands on implementing these requirements.
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