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The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
April 12, 2000
The Honorable Al Gore
I am pleased to transmit for introduction and referral to the appropriate committee a bill
"To authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2000 and 2001 for the United States Coast Guard, and for other purposes."
This legislative proposal, entitled the "Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2000," contains the balance of the Coast Guards legislative program for the 106th Congress. It is supplemental to the "Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1999," transmitted on March 4, 1999, and would implement President Clinton's fiscal year 2001 budget for the United States Coast Guard.
This proposed legislation would improve Coast Guard personnel management, improve financial and property management, and enhance marine safety and environmental protection.
Title I fulfills the President's budget by authorizing the funds and personnel levels necessary for the Coast Guard to conduct its vital missions, such as search and rescue, illegal drug and migrant interdiction, environmental protection, promotion of safe and efficient commercial navigation, fisheries enforcement, and national defense, while serving the public as efficiently and economically as possible.
Title II improves the Coast Guard's ability to manage its personnel, financial, and property resources efficiently by, among other things, replacing outdated statutory provisions governing the former Coast Guard Academy Advisory Committee; authorizing the Coast Guard to provide special pay to officers designated as physician assistants in order to further promote the efficient and effective delivery of medical services within the Coast Guard; and amending the statutes governing seven Coast Guard advisory committees to extend their termination dates.
Title III promotes marine safety and environmental protection by clarifying vessel documentation requirements that pertain to limited liability companies; increasing penalties for the negligent operation of a vessel and for interfering with the safe operation of a vessel; and eliminating the requirement that service
personnel on passenger vessels must hold a merchant mariners document when they perform no navigational or safety duties on the vessel.
Title IV implements the Presidents fiscal year 2001 budget by authorizing the collection and spending of a user fee for Coast Guard navigation assistance services to commercial vessels. Coast Guard navigation assistance services include buoy placement and maintenance, vessel traffic services, radio and satellite navigation systems, and waterways regulation. The fiscal year 2001 fee collections are estimated to be $212 million, based on four months implementation of the charge. When fully implemented, fees are expected to recover $636 million of the Coast Guards costs annually.
Five of the provisions in the attached proposal have been previously submitted to the 106th Congress. The first is the provision in Title II that would authorize the Coast Guard to retain certain administrative, collection, and enforcement costs for existing fees and charges currently authorized by law. This provision would not establish a new user fee or seek to authorize the collection of any amounts in excess of the full costs of providing a given service for which the fee is being charged. The statutory authority that would be provided is necessary to allow the Coast Guard to fund the administration, management, and oversight of its existing user fee program.
Three other provisions that are renewed submissions are found in Title III of the attached proposal. One would authorize the Secretary to issue temporary licenses, certificates of registry, and merchant mariners documents. This proposal has been revised since its previous submission to Congress. As redrafted, the proposal only allows the Secretary to issue temporary credentials; the authority to delegate to private entities has been dropped from the provision. Another provision harmonizes the authority to remove abandoned barges from our nations waterways with the statutory framework for the National Contingency Plan (NCP), thereby assuring that the dedicated funds for response operations under the NCP will be available for removals under the Abandoned Barges Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-587). Lastly, the Department of Transportation is again urging the elimination of an existing requirement that all unmanned U.S. barges be under the control of a U.S. citizen. As a practical matter, it is the master of the tugboat that has actual control of a barge under tow.
The fifth provision is found in Title IV of the attached proposal. That provision would authorize the collection and spending of a user fee for Coast Guard navigation services.
The Office of Management and Budget has advised that there is no objection, from the standpoint of the Administration's program, to the submission of this
proposed legislation to Congress, and that its enactment would be in accord with the President's program.
I recommend that the proposed legislation be enacted by Congress.
Rodney E. Slater
Letter to the President of the Senate
Identical letter to the Speaker of the House