Cantwell, Wicker, Baldwin Bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 Passes Commerce Committee
September 14, 2022
Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 that would reauthorize the Coast Guard for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023. U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Committee, Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Subcommittee on Oceans Chair Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the legislation last week and the bill now heads to the Senate floor, as amended by 52 bipartisan amendments.
“The United States Coast Guard’s mission has never been more critical to our nation’s economy, environment, and security than it is today,” said Sen. Cantwell during the Executive Session. “This bill also makes real investments in programs aimed at retaining Coast Guard members, like expanding access to higher quality child care, requiring the Coast Guard to address the urgent needs for more affordable housing for members, and builds on the success of previous Coast Guard bills by continuing to expand programs needed to retain and enhance diversity in the Coast Guard workforce.”
“The American people depend on the U.S. Coast Guard now more than ever,” said Sen. Wicker. “The Coast Guard can always be counted on to save American lives, protect our homeland, and keep maritime transportation flowing safely, but it is time we do better for our service members. This bill would take a major step toward addressing needs such as deteriorating buildings, outdated equipment, and a lack of adequate funding. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation quickly.”
“Our United States Coast Guard members protect and secure our Great Lakes and are a crucial piece to keeping Wisconsin’s maritime economy moving forward,” said Sen. Baldwin. “Inadequate icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes costs us thousands of American jobs and millions in business revenue, and this bipartisan legislation invests in the icebreaking resources needed to support our maritime industry and our Made in America economy. This critical legislation will help mitigate devastating climate-related events, invest in climate resilient Coast Guard infrastructure at places like Sturgeon Bay and will increase support for childcare, housing, and education needed to do right by our service members and veterans.”
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 would support the following national priorities:
- Cracking Down on Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor: The bill includes language to improve traceability and intergovernmental coordination needed to catch illegal fishermen on the high seas, as well as train NOAA and Coast Guard personnel to identify instances of forced labor and oppressive child labor in the fishing industry. This section would also strengthen the tools that NOAA and the Department of Homeland Security have to end illegal fishing and forced labor, including denial of port privileges, certification, training, and capacity building in countries working to cut down on illegal fishing activity.
- Boosting USCG Arctic Presence: The bill would authorize $841 million for the third Polar Security Cutter and $20 million to establish the Arctic Security Cutter program office. This represents the first major step toward building the next generation of medium polar icebreakers to support maritime transportation, tourism, research, national security, and environmental protection missions in the emerging Arctic.
- Oil Spill Response: The bill would establish a new Coast Guard program to improve oil spill response operations with increased vessel response plan evaluations and oil spill response drills. The bill would also require a Coast Guard study on national, regional, and local oil spill response plans and effectiveness. The bill includes language authored by Senator Peters to improve the use of NOAA data to improve oil spill preparedness and response, as well as Senator Markey to improve oil spill preparedness and oversight activities.
- Investing in Shoreside Infrastructure and Acquisitions: The bill would authorize $3 billion to address infrastructure repair and replacement backlogs. It would also require better transparency regarding the outstanding shoreside infrastructure needs by requiring an annual submission to Congress. This will allow members of Congress to better advocate for funding to address projects in their states and districts, including some of the Coast Guard’s unfunded priorities for Fiscal Year 2022. The bill also includes legislation authored by Senator Schatz relating to Coast Guard missions in the Western Pacific Region and calls for placement of Coast Guard infrastructure and assets to optimum operations in the region. The bill also includes a provision backed by Senator Schatz to require infrastructure improvements to Air Station Barber’s Point. The bill also includes an amendment by Senator Scott to assess the housing deficiencies in Key West, Florida, and an amendment by Senator Johnson to improve ship anchorage reviews by having economic and environmental analysis. The bill also included numerous provisions championed by Senator Baldwin to boost infrastructure and other improvements needed to support Coast Guard missions in the Great Lakes.
- Reducing Sexual Assault and Harassment at Sea: The bill would improve oversight and investigations of sexual assault and harassment in the maritime industry and the Coast Guard. The bill provides the Coast Guard the authority to revoke mariner credentials if the mariner has committed certain sex crimes. It defines sexual harassment and establishes a process for mariners to report crimes to the Coast Guard. The bill would also strengthen Coast Guard policy to ensure that members who are victims of sexual assault are provided care as soon as possible when deployed upon a vessel, or serving in a remote location. It would expand penalties for the failure to report a sexual assault and harassment at sea.
- Improving the Military to Mariners Program and Mariner Credentialing: The bill included an amendment authored by Senators Cruz, Cantwell, Wicker and Baldwin to include the Military to Mariners Act that would improve the application and credentialing process for veterans transitioning to join the maritime industry. The bill would require federal officials to outline current regulations and simplify the documentation requirements for veterans. This bill would also aim to improve mariner credentialing with two amendments sponsored by Senators Capito and Lee to study and improve merchant mariner processing and credentialing issuance, which is a critical step to accessing family-wage jobs in the maritime industry.
- Expanding Options for Childcare: The bill expands the Coast Guard childcare subsidy program, which helps Coast Guard families pay for childcare services. The bill would authorize $25 million (a 56 percent increase over current authorization) and expand eligibility so families are able to use the subsidy for additional types of childcare, such as nannies and multigenerational support. The bill includes an amendment sponsored by Senator Baldwin to improve the subsidy program to cut red tape and direct the Commandant to provide the child care subsidy directly to Coast Guard families benefiting from the program.
- Expanding Access to Medical Care, Education and Training: The bill would improve access to medical care by authorizing research into expanding telemedicine access for members stationed in remote units like Cape Disappointment. The legislation would also establish a behavioral health policy and raise the limit on Coast Guard members permitted to be enrolled in post-graduate programs, increasing the number of Coast Guard members receiving training in the medical field.
- Increasing Access to Affordable Housing: Coast Guard units are often located in locations in coastal resort communities and large coastal cities where housing costs have skyrocketed. The national housing shortage, aging Coast Guard housing, and short-term vacation rentals have left many Coast Guard families without affordable and safe options. This bill would require the Coast Guard to study and develop a plan to improve access to housing. It also includes an amendment authored by Senator Sullivan to review opportunities to improve Coast Guard housing options, such as potential public-private partnerships.
- Assisting Members with Fertility Treatments: This bill would establish a pilot program to assist Coast Guard families with fertility treatments and require that the Coast Guard add at least five behavioral health specialists with training in family issues such as fertility, adoption, and child loss. It would also establish a pilot program allowing members to request to transfer to billets that are located near military medical facilities that provide fertility treatments.
- Promoting Diversity Within the Coast Guard: This bill aims to promote the representation of women and racial or ethnic minorities within the Coast Guard. It would require the Coast Guard to report to Congress on actions taken in response to the 2021 RAND representation report, develop a 10-year strategy to enhance diversity through recruitment and accession, and establish a partnership program with an institution serving underrepresented communities. The bill would also expand the Coast Guard Junior ROTC Program to include partnerships in each Coast Guard district across the nation.
- Supporting Commercial Space: The bill would grant the Coast Guard temporary authority to allow for autonomous vessels to be used for space recovery operations in certain circumstances. This will improve safety as spacecraft return from space.
- Improving Coast Guard Operations and Data Management. The bill includes an amendment led by Senator Blumenthal to support a pilot program to improve search and rescue activities by increasing data sharing. It contains language authored by Senator Sullivan to improve Rescue 21 coverage in Alaska. Senator Duckworth also authored provisions to expand the use of advanced technologies, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to improve Coast Guard operations.
View the bill text here.
Read Chair Cantwell’s opening statement here and watch the video here.