HR 820 -- 03/16/99

March 16, 1999

H.R. 820 - Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1999
(Shuster (R) PA and 3 cosponsors)

The Administration has no objection to House passage of H.R. 820, which would authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for FYs 2000 and 2001, but urges the Congress to amend the bill as recommended below.

The Administration recommends that H.R. 820 be amended, consistent with the President's Budget, to authorize FY 2000 appropriations for the Coast Guard of $2,941 million rather than $3,084 million for operations and maintenance and $350 million rather than $691 million for acquisition and construction, without earmarking for specific purposes. Also, consistent with the President's Budget, the $11 million in bridge construction funding for FY 2000 should be derived from the Highway Trust Fund, rather than General Fund appropriations to the Coast Guard.

The Administration also urges that H.R. 820 be amended to delete Section 204. This provision would require the Coast Guard to operate a seasonal air search and rescue facility at Muskegon, Michigan, until at least September 2001 and to establish a new seasonal air search and rescue facility to serve the Chicago metropolitan area. The provision would also mandate how helicopters assigned to these seasonal facilities would be used when the facilities are not in operation. The Administration strongly opposes such statutory micro-management. The Coast Guard has carefully reviewed the search and rescue needs for Lake Michigan and determined that maintaining the Muskegon air facility and opening a proposed new Chicago facility would provide redundant helicopter coverage. The Coast Guard has in place a comprehensive search and rescue network for Lake Michigan and neither of these facilities is needed to achieve its search and rescue response standards.

Finally, the United States has consistently opposed any requirement for prior notification or authorization for ships to engage in innocent passage through the territorial sea. Section 203 should therefore be amended to make it clear that it would apply only to ships "destined for a port or place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."