U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, convened a Subcommittee hearing to examine the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2008 budget and to receive testimony from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General, Richard Skinner, and a representative of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Mr. Stephen Caldwell, regarding their on-going examinations of the Deepwater procurement.
Congressman Cummings said, "Today's hearing provided the Subcommittee's first opportunity to examine the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2008 budget and to begin the development of the new Coast Guard reauthorization.
"Among other concerns, I believe that insufficient funding is being directed to the Coast Guard's historical programs for maritime safety. Proposed funding levels for search and rescue, marine safety, aids-to-navigation, icebreaking, and the protection of living resources are all lower than amounts that were appropriated for these purposes in fiscal year 2007. As the Coast Guard moves to implement its critical homeland security missions, these missions must not be neglected.
"Further, the Coast Guard provided compelling testimony that on-shore facilities - particularly housing - have significant unmet maintenance needs. I support the appropriation of $360 million for non-Deepwater capital expenditures - which is the level of funding that was appropriated in fiscal year 2005.
"Today, the Subcommittee also received testimony from both the DHS Inspector General and the GAO suggesting that a number of important questions regarding Deepwater remain unanswered.
"For example, it is unclear if the planned acquisitions can be completed within the current $24 billion budget, and I believe that the Coast Guard's moves to strengthen oversight of the program should include the development of a new baseline budget.
"Similarly, it is unclear how much the corrections to the first and second National Security Cutters will cost - or how much the construction of the subsequent cutters will now total. Further, the DHS IG's testimony strongly suggests that the Deepwater contract required
these ships to be built to be underway for 230 days per year, but that requirement is apparently not being met. We must ensure that the government gets exactly what it has paid for - and that all assets acquired under Deepwater meet contract specifications.
"The Coast Guard will return to our Subcommittee to discuss Deepwater 120 days from our first Deepwater hearing, which was January 30. In the meantime, I have instructed the Coast Guard to provide an interim report at the 60-day mark to update us on the changes that are being implemented in the Deepwater contract and to begin answering some of the outstanding questions. Our Subcommittee will exercise strict accountability - even if that means that we have to hold a hearing on this issue every other day.
"The challenges that plague the Deepwater procurement must be systematically resolved. To that end, as we continue to examine the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2008 budget and as we draft the Coast Guard reauthorization legislation, we will seek ways to strengthen the processes and procedures in the Coast Guard's management operations that can ensure accountability and strengthen the service's ability to oversee major acquisitions. In particular, we will examine how the Coast Guard can best develop a trained cadre of acquisition and financial management professionals.
"Importantly, however, our hearing today reconfirmed the dedicated leadership that Admiral Allen is bringing to the effort both to transform the Coast Guard to balance its many missions and to correct the Deepwater procurement. Our Subcommittee will be a committed partner to him and the entire Coast Guard as we work to ensure that Deepwater will produce the assets that the service will need over the coming decades to secure our homeland, provide aid to mariners at sea, and protect our maritime resources."