Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015by Representative Peter A. DeFazio
Posted on 2016-02-01
DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4188, the
``Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015'', as amended by the Senate.
This legislation is virtually the same bill that the House passed last
December by voice vote. I urge Members from both sides of the aisle to
again support this important maritime legislation.
As I noted when the bill passed the House late last year, this legislation reflects a sensible compromise negotiated with the other body that, most importantly, would provide increased authorized funding levels and budget stability for the Coast Guard for the next two years. Combined with the matching increases in FY 2016 appropriations contained in the recently-enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act, we will have provided a solid foundation to build from in the coming fiscal year.
Additionally, the legislation includes provisions to improve Coast Guard mission effectiveness, continue efforts to recapitalize the Service's aging vessels and other assets--especially the need for new polar icebreakers--and enhance maritime security and safety policy.
Importantly, the bill extends the existing statutory prohibition preventing the Coast Guard from closing its air facility, or AIRFAC, located in Newport, Oregon.
Due to budget cuts, in 2014, the Coast Guard threatened to close the Newport AIRFAC--which handles one-half of the emergency search and rescue response calls on the Central Oregon Coast.
In fact, only last week a 40-foot crabbing vessel capsized a mile from the entrance to Coos Bay, throwing four fishermen into the frigid and perilous waters of the North Pacific Ocean. This incident again demonstrates that calamity can strike at anytime off the Oregon Coast. It underscores the importance of keeping a strong AIRFAC presence along the Oregon coastline, to ensure the safety of Oregon's fishing industry, and the people who live, recreate, or work along the coast.
This legislation extends the existing statutory prohibition for an additional two years, and likely longer, depending on whether the Coast Guard completes some necessary planning to address the looming need to recapitalize its two helicopter fleets.
Moreover, after the prohibition expires, this legislation authorizes a rigorous administrative process that the Coast Guard must follow before it can close any AIRFAC.
In the future, the Coast Guard must promptly notify Members of Congress representing affected areas and convene public meetings in communities within the area of responsibility of the AIRFAC to gather information on how the closure would affect residents and visitors.
In its totality, this provision will ensure that any future proposal to close an AIRFAC will be vetted extensively through a transparent, public process; a process that will ensure that the Coast Guard's search and rescue capabilities are the absolute last place any one should consider cutting in the Coast Guard's budget.
I want to thank the Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Congressman Bill Shuster, for his leadership on this legislation. I also want to express my [[Page H420]] appreciation for the very constructive and bipartisan working relationship we have developed to advance the agenda of the Committee this Congress. This legislation is a great start to 2016.
I also want to thank the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Congressman Duncan Hunter, and Ranking Member John Garamendi, for their support for this provision, and for their close cooperation and contributions throughout negotiations with the other body.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, the final legislation before the House is a sensible, bipartisan product that supports our Nation's Coast Guard. And while admittedly not perfect, this legislation is something that Members on both sides of the aisle should readily support.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this critical legislation.- The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Young of Iowa). The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. Hunter) that the House suspend the rules and concur in the Senate amendment to the bill, H.R. 4188.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the Senate amendment was concurred in.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.