July 12, 2002Turf battle threatens Coast guard move to new agencyThe Coast Guard may not sail into a new Department of Homeland Security as smoothly as the Bush Administration had hoped. As widely predicted, Congressional turf battles are already affecting efforts to create the new agency. About 54 percent of the new department's employees and about half its estimated $37 million budget would come from departments currently the responsibility of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Yesterday the committee voted against several key proposals in the Homeland Security Agency proposal. Notably, it voted to prevent the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency from being absorbed into the proposed new agency. The bipartisan amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (H.R. 5005) was approved by a voice vote. The amendment was authored by Committee Chairman Rep. Don Young and Ranking Democrat Rep. James Oberstar . "There is no doubt that after the events of September 11, the President must be given the resources to protect this country from all attacks, whether terrorist or otherwise," Young said during the markup. "I want to make it clear that I do not object to the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. However, the bill as introduced raises many concerns which this Congress has a responsibility to address." On the issue of the Coast Guard, Young noted that"the legislation states that the primary mission of this department is to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. It is very likely that all other important missions of the Coast Guard... will become secondary to the effort to combat terrorism." Young told the Committee that "the Coast Guard provides a long list of services to average citizens and has had limited responsibility in the area of security." Though maritime security was an extremely important function of the Coast Guard that should not be minimized, said Young, "Other functions are also extremely important. The Coast Guard provides for search and rescue of boaters, they keep our waterways open to navigation through their ice breaking efforts and maintaining aids to navigation, they protect our environment and fisheries resources, they keep passengers safe on commercial vessels of all types, and interdict both drugs and illegal immigrants. "We've given the Coast Guard a great deal of work to do and they have always carried out their dutieswith distinction. If the Secretary of Homeland Security wants to commit his entire effort to preventing terrorist attacks, under this bill he can reduce the resources of the Coast Guard for these other missions and direct those resources entirely to security." "I have the same concerns regarding FEMA. FEMA is doing a great job responding to both natural and man-made disasters throughout the country. FEMA has many other responsibilities as well. The amendment passed by Young's Committee keeps the U.S. Coast Guard in the Department of Transportation, creates a new Coast Guard Undersecretary whose duties include Homeland Security, and ensures that Coast Guard core missions are performed at adequate levels as envisioned by Congress. The amendment requires the Coast Guard to continue to devote an adequate amount of resources to core Coast Guard missions of search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, marine environmental protection, and marine safety. Other House committees have also made numerous amendments to the Homeland Security Act. Now a special panel headed by House Majority Leader Dick Armey will try to put them all together into a single package. That panel plans to write its bill next week and bring it to the House floor the following week. Armey's panel has the power to reverse all the decisions taken by the various committees. Young has urged his 75-member committee to block the bill on the floor if they don't get a chance to amend it. Meantime, the Senate must also pass its version of the legislation. Recommend This Page Enter an email address
November 20, 2002Senate passes Homeland SecurityWith the 107th Congress nearing a close, the Senate last night gave its blessing to homeland security legislation on a 90-to-9 vote a week after it sailed through the House of Representatives, 299-121. The bill will now go to President Bush for signature after the House agrees to technical revisions, probably on Friday. Washington sources now believe that the new department will indeed be headed by Governor Tom Ridge, the present Homeland Security Advisor. For the marine industry, a crucial question is who will fill the key role of Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security. Former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral James Loy, the current Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, would seem a logical choice.Primary responsibilities of the new Under Secretary include: preventing the entry of terrorists and the instruments of terrorism into the United States, securing the borders, territorial waters, ports, terminals, waterways, and air, land, and sea transportation systems of the United States, administering the immigration and naturalization laws of the United States, including the establishment of rules governing the granting of visas and other forms of permission to enter the United States to individuals who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents, administering the customs laws of the United States, and ensuring the speedy, orderly, and efficient flow of lawful traffic and commerce in carrying out these responsibilities. Agencies and functions relevant to border and transportation security that are to be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security include both Loy's present agency, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Coast Guard, both now within the Department of Transportation. The legislation expressly requires that the Coast Guard be maintained as a distinct entity within the Department of Homeland Security.The Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security will also be responsible for the United States Customs Service (now in the Department of the Treasury), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now in the Department of Justice) and the Federal Protective Service of the General Services Administration is also transferred to the Department.
THE MARINE LOG FEATURES CALENDAR FOR 2003
Senator Hollings' amendment would have provided funding to help federal agencies, local law enforcement and port operators meet the new security mandates in the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which Hollings authored and was signed into law last November.
"Everybody talks about port security, but they don't do anything about it," said Senator Hollings, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, which oversees the nation's maritime system. "Every Republican and every Democrat committed to this funding just 12 days ago, but they weren't willing to put the real dollars behind that commitment. They just aren't taking this issue seriously."
In its $75 billion supplemental appropriations proposal, the Administration set aside $4.2 billion for homeland security needs, but only a small fraction of the funding was designated for domestic port security. The Coast Guard has estimated that it will require at least $1 billion per year for private port facilities to meet the baseline mandates in the new federal port security laws. Hollings says the continued delay in substantive funding has set ports months behind in their effort to secure the nation's maritime system.
"This supplemental request did not include the kind of funding that's going to be required to make our ports more secure over the long term, but this amendment would have gone a long way towards correcting that," said Senator Hollings following the vote. "We have to fund this. There's just no two ways about it. So we'll continue the fight. The travesty of the whole thing is that we're losing precious time. Had we included this in the supplemental, it would have been done immediately, and our ports would have had the resources necessary to tackle security aggressively. Now, who knows how long it will take."
During conference negotiations last fall on the Maritime Transportation Security Act, Sen. Hollings led Senate conferees in advocating for a guaranteed funding source for port security. Faced with inaction from the Bush Administration to fund port security efforts, Senate conferees proposed a user fee on cargo shippers, akin to the user fee on airline passengers utilized to fund aviation security. When members of the House Ways and Means Committee and other House conferees refused to fund port security improvements, Senate conferees agreed that the bill must be passed. While the Maritime Transportation Security Act, as passed, imposed an unfunded security mandate on the nation's ports, it directed the President to submit funding plans within six months of enactment.