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March 1, 2001

No maritime cheer in Bush budget blueprint
A preliminary budget "blueprint" released by President George W. Bush proposes $5.1 billion for the Coast Guard, $545 million above 2001 enacted, to support operational requirements and begin rebuilding the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of ships and aircraft.

Other than that, there's little for maritime interests to cheer.

OMB staffers have been allowed to stick it to MarAd. The Blueprint says that "In an effort to trim corporate subsidies, the President’s Budget seeks no new funding for the Maritime Guarantee Loan Sub-sidy Program (Title XI). This program provides loan guarantees at low-rates and for extendedterms for the ship building industry and for shipyard modernization."

The Blueprint also says "to consolidate the management of like-programs and achieve greater efficiencies, the budget proposes to transfer the Maritime Security Program and its funding from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Defense. This transfer will en-sure a centralized national security focus in the management of this program."

Without Title XI and without MSP to worry about, any Bush-appointed U.S. Maritime Administrator would have plenty of time for crossword puzzles, origami, knitting or like pursuits.

Elsewhere in the Blueprint, the Corps of Engineers finds itself under scrutiny'.

"Given the large backlog of funding needed to complete construction projects already underway ($21 billion)," says the Blueprint, "the budget focuses on completing ongoing projects, rather than starting construction of new projects that would add to this backlog and increase delays in completing ongoing projects. The budget also redirects funds from 2001 congressional add-ons that are inconsistent with established policies.

"In the operation and maintenance program, it gives priority to funding port and harbor and inland waterway activities that support significant commercial navigation. Funds are redirected from lower-priority activities, such as recreational harbors and low commercial-use inland waterway segments. For the Mississippi River and Tributaries program, the budget targets funds to high priority flood damage reduction projects, which are located on the mainstem of the Mississippi River and in the Atchafalaya River basin (Louisiana), and redirects funds away from ongoing projects that are not economically justified, are environmentally damaging, or violate other established policies."

"In recent years," says the Blueprint, " the Army and the Corps of Engineers headquarters significantly reduced their project-specific oversight of the Corps' project planning process. Serious questions have been raised about the quality, objectivity, and credibility of Corps reports on the economic and environmental feasibility of proposed water projects. A recent Army Inspector General (IG) investigation found strong indications that an institutional bias might extend throughout the Corps in favor of large-scale construction projects, which 'created an atmosphere where objectivity in [the Corps'] analyses was placed in jeopardy.' The Army and its Corps of Engineers have taken steps to start to address these concerns, including clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the Chief of Engineers. In addition, the ability of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review Corps of Engineers planning reports and oversee the Corps' planning process will be strengthened. The Administration is evaluating additional steps, includ- ing the need for independent review of Corps planning reports involving controversial or costly projects.

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