Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, issued the statement below following a Subcommittee hearing on a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General that paints a bleak picture of the Coast Guard’s marine casualty program; the report found that unqualified personnel are conducting marine casualty investigations, that the investigations are being conducted at inappropriate levels, and that there exists a substantial backlog of investigations due to ineffective management:
“This morning we witnessed another example of the pressing need to expand the size of the U.S. Coast Guard. We cannot expect any organization to operate at full capacity when it does not have the staff or resources necessary to do so. Operating at full capacity is especially important when dealing with critical issues such as the safety of our mariners, marine life, and property at sea. For this reason, the Coast Guard must perform a workload analysis to determine how many people it needs to properly fulfill its marine casualty investigation duties.
“Additionally, I fully support Chairman Oberstar’s suggestion that the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board reach a resolution regarding primacy when it comes to marine casualty investigations. The Coast Guard and NTSB must assess whether they can revise their existing MOU to adequately address this issue. Furthermore, I stress that any resolution in this matter must be reached in the most efficient and effective way, to ensure that marine casualty investigations yield all safety recommendations necessary to prevent future casualties.
“While the Coast Guard continues to be an outstanding organization whose critical missions and unrivaled service have contributed to our nation for more than 200 years, there are still areas—such as the marine safety program—that have room for improvement. The Members of the Subcommittee and I will continue working with the Coast Guard to facilitate the adjustments needed to allow the service to continue to effectively excel for years to come.”