Two Congressional Hearings Scheduled on Various Aspects of the U.S. Coast Guard Business

It has not been the best of years for the United States Coast Guard, but the glaring spotlight is not about to go away any time soon for the embattled Department of Homeland Security (DHS) organization. In the immediate wake of the unwelcome congressional scrutiny of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater $24-billion debacle, two additional hearings have also been scheduled. In part, these hearings will address the failings of the Coast Guard’s Administrative Law System and also the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Program. The meetings have been scheduled as follows:

House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation - Review of the Coast Guard's Administrative Law System

         Tuesday, July 31, 2007 / 10:00AM / 2167 Rayburn HOB

House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation - Challenges Facing the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Program

         Thursday, August 2, 2007 / 2 PM / 2167 Rayburn HOB

The two meetings promise to bring even more scrutiny to Coast Guard programs that have come under fire in recent weeks. CDR Brendan McPherson, Press Secretary to the Commandant, told MarEx today, “The Commandant looks forward to going in front of the subcommittee and looks forward to improving marine safety service to the maritime community, while balancing the resources available to the Coast Guard while maintaining a high level of service to the maritime industry.” He also said that ADM Allen would appear at the Marine Safety Program hearing but was unlikely to testify at the Coast Guard Administrative Law hearing on Tuesday.

The Coast Guard’s Administrative Law Program has been heavily scrutinized since The Baltimore Sun published an unflattering portrayal of a biased and unfair judicial system governed by Coast Guard administrative law judges. The Coast Guard has since released data to refute those allegations, but the charges have not gone away. On the marine safety side of the ledger, the Coast Guard continues to receive criticism about its personnel increasingly being removed from the technical processes that they oversee, especially in the wake of so much outsourcing in that particular department. There is real concern within the industry that the level of expertise demonstrated by Coast Guard personnel in recent years, particularly in the areas of marine inspection and merchant mariner credentialing, has eroded to the point where these functions should be removed from Coast Guard oversight. The Coast Guard continues to vigorously defend itself against such charges and Thursday’s hearing promises to be a lively one.

Elsewhere, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released assessments of other programs administered by the Coast Guard. The Marine Safety Program, which will come under scrutiny by the subcommittee next Thursday, was rated as being adequate, but with a need for improved performance measures. The OMB report can be accessed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/summary/10003609.2005.html