Wicker Celebrates Commerce Committee Provisions in National Defense Bill

December 16, 2022

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the following statement after the Senate passed the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among other provisions, the bill includes the Coast Guard Authorization Act, the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) Reauthorization, Improving Protections for Midshipmen Act, the National Ocean Exploration Act, and the Regional Ocean Partnerships Act.

“This year’s NDAA includes significant support for our maritime industry, ocean exploration, and Coast Guard service members,” Wicker said. “This bill will authorize funding for the Coast Guard through 2023 while also investing in the service’s only shipyard and providing our service members with better resources. The National Exploration Act will serve as a catalyst for new underwater discoveries and improve the way we map, explore, and characterize the deep seas. And the provisions to reauthorize the Maritime Administration will enhance national and economic security efforts while increasing protections against sexual assault and harassment at sea. I am pleased that these important measures are included in the NDAA.”

The Coast Guard Authorization Act that would:

  • Authorize continued acquisition of a number of vessels critical to Coast Guard success, to include an additional national security cutter, six fast response cutters, funds for the next polar security cutter, funds for continuation of the offshore patrol cutter program, and procurement of a commercial icebreaker to help provide immediate presence in the Arctic.
  • Authorize $1 billion for shore side infrastructure and maintenance, including for the Coast Guard Yard, the service’s only shipyard. 
  • Authorize greater agility in procurement of emerging and cost-effective technologies for current mission needs. 
  • Enhance maritime cybersecurity and unmanned systems programs within the service. 
  • Study on INDOPACOM strategy and better use of the Coast Guard in that region.
  • Make information on Coast Guard migrant interdictions publicly available.
  • Strengthen efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. 
  • Include several measures to improve the healthcare system and services to Coast Guard men and women. 
  • Establish enhanced safety standards for DUKW boats. 
  • Authorize programs to leverage automation and technology in the commercial maritime industry. 
  • Streamline administrative processes to allow former service members to more easily become licensed commercial mariners.
  • Allow for automation and reduced manning on Articulated Tug-Barge vessels.
  • Improve the manner in which NOAA evaluates marine mammal impacts for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) Reauthorization that would: 

  • Include the Improving Protections for Midshipmen Act, which would strengthen Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment (SASH) prevention, response, investigation, and accountability in the maritime industry and provide additional safeguards for the Midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). 
  • Recapitalize the National Defense Reserve Fleet and double the Tanker Security fleet to meet National Defense needs for strategic sealift. 
  • Authorize funding for Port Infrastructure Development Grants to improve critical supply chains. 
  • Include the Maritime Technical Advancement Act to improve technical training for maritime workers. 
  • Include the Marine Highway Promotion Act to improve the Marine Highway Program to increase efficiency and help reduce highway congestion.

The National Ocean Exploration Act that would:

  • Authorize and improve the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council.
  • Reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s existing Ocean Exploration, Ocean and Coastal Mapping, and Hydrographic Services programs from fiscal years 2021 to 2030.
  • Establish a system to enhance the public accessibility of ocean-related National Environmental Policy Act documents and the geo-referenced data included in them.

The Regional Ocean Partnerships Act that would:

  • Designate the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council, and the West Coast Ocean Alliance as Regional Ocean Partnerships.
  • Give authority to the Governor or Governors of coastal state(s) to apply to the Secretary of Commerce for designation as a Regional Ocean Partnership.
  • Define the functions of Regional Ocean Partnerships.