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October 16, 2010

Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 signed into law

H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, has been signed into law.

"This Act strengthens the Coast Guard as a military service and branch of the Armed Forces in the Department of Homeland Security by providing organizational flexibility for the Coast Guard and allowing for improvements to its military housing," said President Obama in a statement issued after the signing. "Additionally, the Act materially enhances the marine safety and maritime security missions of the Coast Guard, and it includes language to implement the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001."

The signing statement notes a couple of parts of the Act that the Administration is not too happy with:

"Section 818 of the Act requires the Comptroller General to determine whether it is feasible to deliver securely a transportation security card to an approved applicant's place of residence. If such a determination is made, the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) would be required to implement a process that allows for such delivery. This provision would impermissibly vest authority in the Comptroller General, a congressional officer, to bind the Secretary in the performance of an Executive function. Therefore, the Secretary will need to treat the Comptroller General's findings as advisory and nonbinding.

"Finally, certain provisions in section 401 may vest significant authority in the Coast Guard Chief Acquisition Officer, who is not appointed in conformity with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. The Executive will therefore need to construe these provisions as requiring approval of any exercise of significant authority by a supervisor who is an officer of the United States."

Nonetheless Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp appears pleased with the law.

"The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 provides us with authority to enhance the safety of U.S. ports and waterways, acquisition assistance to acquire state-of-the-art ships and aircraft to patrol America's waters, and tools to promote individual readiness, including improvements to our family housing and child development centers," said the Commandant, adding, "I am particularly pleased with the modernization authority -- it will allow us to finish our organizational realignment and enhance our ability to meet the high demand for our services."

Key provisions of the new law include:

Policies that will support the execution of the maritime safety and security missions.

Increased criminal penalties for vessel operators who fail to heave to, especially in cases involving the smuggling of drugs or illegal migrants.

Promulgation and clarification of commercial fishing vessel safety standards.

New authority to sell Coast Guard-owned property and use the resulting funds to purchase and build improved housing for military members and their families.

Policy and procedures that formalize existing acquisition program processes and mandate minimum training and experience standards for acquisition staff.

Other major sections of the law improve or affect shipping and navigation, marine safety, oil pollution prevention, port security and benefits for Coast Guard personnel.

The law also allows the President to designate up to four positions of importance and responsibility to be held by vice admirals, in addition to the vice commandant, and removes language linking the rank of these vice admirals to specific positions, creating more flexibility in how senior leadership is organized within the service.

According to the Coast Guard, a full version of the law can be found online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/signed-legislation. Unfortunately, when we checked it, the link to the law on that page actually led to piece of legislation on geothermal energy.


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