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February 26, 2010

Cummings "deeply, deeply" concerned" by Coast Guard budget cuts

Republican members of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee were critical of cuts in the FY 2011 Coast Guard budget request just as soon as it appeared.

Now it seems Democrats also have misgivings.

"There is no way to sugar coat what the impact of these proposed cuts would be: they will reduce the capacity of the Coast Guard to carry out its missions," declared Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation at a hearing on the FY 2011 budget requests for the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission.

Chairman Cummings noted in an opening statement that the Administration is requesting approximately $9.6 billion in FY 2011 for the Coast Guard -- approximately $35 million below the FY 2010 enacted appropriation.

"To achieve the budget reductions proposed in the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2011 budget, while generally preserving the budget for asset recapitalizations, the budget request proposes a number of cuts in the Coast Guard's operations," said Chairman Cummngs. "Specifically, the budget proposes to reduce the size of the Coast Guard's military workforce by 1,112 positions while increasing the number of civilian personnel by 339 positions, yielding a net reduction of 773 positions."

"The decrease in the number of military personnel results largely from the proposed decommissioning of assets," he continued. "The budget proposes decommissioning five cutters, including four High Endurance Cutters. These decommissionings will result in the loss of approximately 5,000 cutter mission hours in fiscal year 2011. The budget also proposes to remove several HH-65 helicopters from service, close two seasonal air facilities, retire four Falcon jets, and decommission five Maritime Safety and Security Teams."

He said the impact of the cuts is reflected in the Coast Guard's performance measure estimates for FY 2011. For example, the Coast Guard has lowered from 18.5 percent in FY 2010 to 15.5 percent in FY 2011 the projected target removal rate for cocaine from non-commercial vessels in maritime transit.

"In plain English," said the Chairman, "according to the Coast Guard's own performance measures, reduced patrol hours will likely mean that fewer drugs will be interdicted at sea. Other performance indicators have also been lowered."

"I am deeply, deeply concerned by the proposed reductions in the Coast Guard's budget," declared the Chairman.

"I firmly believe that the Coast Guard's budget needs to be equal to our nation's requirements for the Coast Guard's services - and this budget simply does not meet that standard," he said.

Turning to the Maritime Administration's FY 2011 budget request, Chairman Cummings noted that "despite what

appears to be a significant demand for assistance among small shipyards, there is no request for funds for the Assistance to Small Shipyards Program."

The Chairman also noted that while Marad is currently reviewing applications for Title XI loan guarantees for projects that would cover approximately $2.6 billion in loans for a variety of projects at shipyards on all coasts, the FY 2011 budget request for Title XI is only $3.7 million -- the amount of funding needed to administer the existing loan portfolio."

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