Cummings Assists Passage of USCG Funding Bill

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings assisted in the U.S. House of Representatives passing of H.R. 3619, the “Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010.” Congressman Cummings was “floor manager” for the bill. Cummings, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, also sponsored the bill.

The Coast Guard authorization, which passed 385-11, will allow the Coast Guard to add 1,500 additional personnel, bringing the total number of authorized service members to 47,000. Also, the number of authorized officer slots will increase to 6,700.

“This authorization will hopefully allow the Coast Guard to shed their tradition of doing more with less,” said Congressman Cummings. “The Coast Guard deserves recognition as a critical piece of our homeland security strategy; one we hold responsible for the safety of both professional and recreational mariners. We must provide the funding needed to continue and improve on their outstanding history of service.”

H.R. 3619 also requires the Coast Guard to address shortcomings in acquisition management, by developing life-cycle cost estimates for assets that are expected to cost $10m and to have a service life of 10 years or more. The bill prohibits contractor self-certification and requires the appointment of a Chief Acquisition Officer with professional qualifications in acquisition management. The legislation also authorizes the appropriation of $153m to fund a new icebreaker for service on the Great Lakes.
 
Safety issues are addressed. Safety equipment standards are created for commercial fishing vessels operating three nautical miles or more from the U.S. coast. Rules are also specified, ensuring safety and security for passengers on cruise ships. Requirements include preservation by ship personnel of evidence of crimes committed onboard, and providing appropriate medical treatment to victims of sexual assaults.

Education is a major focus. A program would make loans available to eligible students to fund their training for jobs in the maritime industry and would provide grants on a competitive basis to develop services to enhance the recruitment, training, and retention of our mariner workforce. The legislation also allows Members of Congress to nominate individuals to attend the Coast Guard Academy, similar to the process used at the other service academies, supporting ongoing efforts to expand Academy diversity. 

Finally, H.R. 3619 will support a comprehensive approach to combating smuggling on land, by air, and at sea by creating criminal penalties for those who bring unlawful aliens into the United States.

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