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March 3, 2004

House hearing on port security grants, USCG funding and FMC

The Bush Administration's requests for fiscal year 2005 Department of Homeland Security port security grants, the U.S. Coast Guard budget and the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) budget will be topics of a Congressional hearing tomorrow, Thursday, March 4.

The U.S. House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee also plans to discuss the Coast Guard Authorization Act for FY 2005, legislation expected to be introduced by Committee leaders in the House later this week.

The hearing, chaired by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 4, 2004 in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building. Live audio and video broadcasts of the hearing will be available at the Committee's website: www.house.gov/transportation

Thursday's Witness List includes Admiral Thomas H. Collins; Commandant, United States Coast Guard, Master Chief Petty Officer Franklin A. Welch, U.S. Coast Guard and Honorable Steven R. Blust, Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission

DHS Port Security Grants

The Administration's FY 2005 request includes $46 million in port security grants to be administered by the Office of Domestic Preparedness.

The Maritime Transportation Security Act authorizes the Secretary of Transportation, acting through the Maritime Administrator, to make port security grants to port authorities, facility operators, and state and local governments. These grants may be used to correct vulnerabilities in port security and ensure compliance with Area Maritime Transportation Security Plans and facility plans. In Fiscal Years 2002, 2003 and 2004 a total of $588 million has been appropriated for these grants. Of that amount, $442 million has been awarded. An additional round of grants in expected to be made later this year. In FY 2004, $124.5 million was provided to the Transportation Security Administration for these grants.

Coast Guard Budget Request & Coast Guard Reauthorization

The Administration requests $7.5 billion for fiscal year 2005 for the Coast Guard. This request is $430 million, or approximately 6.1 percent, more than the amount appropriated for the Coast Guard in fiscal year 2004.

Included in the request is $5.2 billion for Operating Expenses, $101 million to implement the Maritime Transportation Security Act, and $942.6 million for Acquisitions, Construction and Improvements (including $678 million for the Deepwater Capability Replacement Project).

This week, leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plan to introduce the Coast Guard Authorization Act For FY 2005.

As the fifth armed force of the United States, the Coast Guard also maintains defense readiness to operate as a specialized service in the Navy upon the declaration of war or when the President directs. The Coast Guard is composed of approximately 37,000 active duty military personnel, 9,000 reservists, 6,400 civilian employees, and 32,000 volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard has defended the nation in every war since 1790. Federal Maritime Commission Budget Request The Administration requests $19.5 million for the operation of the Federal Maritime Commission for fiscal year 2005. Approximately $18.4 million was appropriated for FMC operations in fiscal year 2004.

FMC

The FMC is a five member independent agency responsible for enforcing international shipping rules and regulations involving carriers (container ship operators), shippers (companies owning goods to be transported), and transportation facilitators such as freight forwarders, non-vessel operating common carriers, and customs brokers.

The FMC is primarily engaged in administering the Shipping Act of 1984. However, the FMC also enforces the Foreign Shipping Practices Act and Section 19 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920 to protect shippers and carriers from restrictive or unfair practices of foreign governments and foreign-flag carriers. The FMC also enforces the laws related to cruise vessel financial responsibility to ensure that cruise vessel operators have sufficient resources to pay judgments to passengers for personal injury or death or for nonperformance of a voyage.

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