Finding Your Way: The Future of Federal Aids to Navigation

By MarEx 2014-02-05 10:40:00

On Tuesday, February 4, 2014, the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing to examine the future of federal navigation programs. The Subcommittee will hear from the United States Coast Guard, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and stakeholders representing industry and academia. 

A safe, secure, and efficient marine transportation system is critical to the U.S. economy. Waterborne cargo and associated commercial activities contribute more than $649 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product and sustain more than 13 million jobs. Nearly 100 percent of the volume of overseas trade enters or leaves the United States by vessels navigating the marine transportation system. Additionally, more than 22 million recreational boats in the United States generate an annual economic value of $121.5 billion and support 964,000 direct and indirect American jobs. To facilitate the efficient movement of goods, protect the environment, and ensure the safety and security of the marine transportation system, the navigable waters of the United States are charted, marked, and maintained to assist in vessel navigation. The Coast Guard, the Corps, and NOAA each play integral roles in operating and maintaining the U.S. navigation system. 

A major challenge facing the Nation is to improve the economic efficiency and competitiveness of the U.S. maritime sector, while reducing risks to life, property, and the coastal environment. The emergence of satellite and advanced telecommunication based navigation technologies presents new opportunities to improve the safety, security, and efficiency of the marine transportation system and reduce risks to the coastal environment. Implementation of these electronic navigation (e-navigation) technologies also poses challenges for both federal agencies and public and private maritime users.

Witnesses:

Panel I

Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony

Rear Admiral Gerd F. Glang, Director, Office of Coast Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Written Testimony

Jim Hannon, Chief, Operations and Regulatory Division, United States Army Corps of Engineers | Written Testimony

Panel II

Dana Goward, President, Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation | Written Testimony

Dr. Larry Mayer, Professor and Director, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center | Written Testimony

John Palatiello, Executive Director, Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors

Captain Lynn Korwatch, Executive Director, Marine Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region | Written Testimony

Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) made the following opening statement:

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review the future of the federal government’s navigation programs.  I want to thank and commend Ranking Member Garamendi for requesting the Subcommittee explore this important topic.

We rely on the navigation activities of the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA to provide for a safe, secure, and efficient marine transportation system that forms the backbone of our economy.  The maritime sector contributes more than $650 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product and sustains more than 13 million jobs.  Nearly 100 percent of our overseas trade enters or leaves the U.S. by vessels navigating the marine transportation system. 

To maintain this economic output, facilitate the efficient movement of goods, protect the environment, and ensure the safety and security of marine transportation system, the navigable waters of the United States are charted, marked, and dredged on a regular basis.  NOAA is tasked with surveying and producing over 1,000 nautical charts covering 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of waters; the Corps is responsible for surveying and maintaining the depth of nearly 25,000 miles of federal navigation channels throughout the country; and the Coast Guard is charged with the maintenance of over 50,000 federal government-owned buoys, beacons, and other aids-to-navigation that mark 25,000 miles of waterways.

In fiscal year 2013, NOAA, the Corps, and the Coast Guard spent over $2.5 billion to carry out these navigation missions.  In light of the current budget environment, I am interested in exploring ways to carry out these missions in a more cost effective manner, while also ensuring the safety, security, efficiency of our waterways.

In an age of electronic communications and digital technology, I am interested in the savings and efficiencies that can be gained through an e-navigation system, as well as the progress we have made in implementing e-navigation.  However, I am also concerned that as an e-navigation system is built out, adequate redundancies and back-up systems are put in place to ensure safety.  

In order to grow jobs and remain competitive in a global economy, we must build and maintain a world-class navigation system.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses what progress they have made toward making such a system a reality.