Coast Guard Reauthorization Enacted into Law

February 9, 2016

WASHINGTON – President Obama signed into law H.R. 4188, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015. As modified by the Senate, the bill includes provisions from H.R. 1987 approved by voice vote in the House of Representatives on May 18, 2015, and S. 1611 approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on June 25, 2015. The bill passed the Senate by voice vote on December 18, 2015. The bill will reauthorize the Coast Guard for two years.
U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who respectively serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, provided the following statements on enactment of the reauthorization:

“America is safer when the U.S. Coast Guard has the authority it needs to carry out life-saving missions and protect our shores and waterways,” said Sen. Thune. “Thanks to bipartisan and bicameral efforts, we’ve now enacted a bill to reauthorize the Coast Guard and give those who serve the tools they need for the next two years."

“This legislation will enable the Coast Guard to begin bringing new vessels on line, thereby ensuring the service is properly equipped to safeguard lives and property at sea, and to protect U.S. national and homeland security interests," said Nelson.   

Highlights of the bill to reauthorize the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal years 2016-2017:
Maritime drug enforcement – Sec. 314 includes new authorities to combat illicit trafficking and smuggling and transnational criminal organizations, including those active in the Caribbean Basin. The section criminalizes concealment of bulk cash proceeds of $100,000 or more on smugglers' vessels that are subject to U.S. maritime law.
Polar icebreaker – Sec. 207 authorizes the Coast Guard Commandant to utilize incremental funding as a strategy for any potential future acquisition of a polar icebreaker.  This would allow the Coast Guard to spread the cost of such a vessel over multiple fiscal years and reduce its overall impact on the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget.  Incremental funding has previously been used by the U.S. Navy during the acquisition of aircraft carriers, assault ships, and destroyers. U.S. polar ice breakers have traditionally operated in the Arctic Ocean which has witnessed an increased amount of commercial seafaring vessels.
Provides authorization – Authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 at $9.1 billion.
Federal Maritime Commission – Title IV reauthorizes the Federal Maritime Commission at current funding levels while providing increased accountability at the Commission by ensuring all Commissioners have the opportunity to review hiring decisions and budget submissions.

Click here for the bill text.