Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Michael Connor Nominated To Be ASA(CW)

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden has nominated former Obama administration official Michael Connor of Colorado to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

Currently a partner in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, Connor served as deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior from 2014 until 2017.

According to the White House, he played a key role in establishing water policies to address an unprecedented western drought, promoting renewable energy development on public lands and the outer continental shelf, developing science-based strategies to support landscape-level management of public lands and improving the federal government’s fulfillment of its trust responsibility to Native Americans.

Connor served as the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation from 2009 to 2014.

His work also included forging major water rights settlements with American Indians and leading Interior Department negotiations to complete two major binational agreements with Mexico on the Colorado River.

From 2001 until 2009, Connor was counsel to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and previously served in the Solicitor’s Office at the Interior Department and as director of the secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office.

A long-time New Mexican, Connor is an enrolled member of the Taos Pueblo nation.

Republican Counteroffer

Senate Republicans matched President Joe Biden’s bid to spend $17 billion for inland waterways and ports, but their much more narrow counteroffer to Biden’s massive $2 trillion-plus infrastructure package came in at $568 billion over five years.

They also kept their “framework” to the more traditional infrastructure items such as roads, bridges, airports and broadband compared to the president’s proposal, which includes the care economy and job training.

Their approach to pay for their proposal also differs dramatically from the one promoted by Biden.

Staying away from tax hikes, the Senate Republicans want to repurpose unused federal spending, make sure all users of infrastructure pay and shore up trust funds facing shortfalls.

Although the two sides remain far apart, at least on paper, Biden used his speech to a joint session of Congress to say he applauded the Senate Republicans’ proposal and welcomed ideas.

Commandant Testimony

Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz reported progress on the recapitalization of the service’s inland tender fleet but warned the aging fleet is plagued with increasing maintenance costs and cannot support mixed-gender crews.

“These cutters have the herculean responsibility of maintaining both fixed and floating aids to navigation on the U.S. maritime transportation system, the 25,000 miles of rivers and navigable channels that support $5.4 trillion in annual commerce and 31 million jobs,” Schultz said at a hearing on Coast Guard Readiness held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

He said the $25 million provided in the FY 2021 appropriation will help maintain momentum on Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) acquisition with a delivery of the first ship scheduled in FY 2024.

Schultz also told the panel the Coast Guard’s “Technology Revolution” initiatives must enhance its support of the U.S. maritime industry, specifically the merchant mariner licensing and documentation processes.

“The security and integrity of U.S. mariner credentialing depends upon a world-class, data-driven credentialing system; however, the current antiquated program is unreliable and obsolete,” he said.

He expressed gratitude for the $12 million Congress appropriated between fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to begin the modernization of the legacy merchant mariner credentialing and vessel documentation systems, adding that momentum must be continued.

On the FY 2022 budget, Schultz told the panel he had to defer that discussion until the president transmits his full budget to Congress.

The Coast Guard has scheduled virtual public meetings at 8 p.m. EDT May 11 and 6 p.m. EDT May 12 on its plan to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on its Waterways Commerce Cutter acquisition program.

Online information for both meetings was posted in the Federal Register on April 28.

To access the May 11 meeting via telephone, call 571-388-3904 and use code 578 512 053#.

For the May 12 meeting, call 571-388-3904 and use pass code 736 697 546#.

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Krolman at 202-475-3104.

Drug Testing Rate Unchanged

The Coast Guard announced the calendar year 2021 minimum random drug testing rate will continue at 50 percent of covered crewmembers.

As part of the effort to promote maritime safety and deter illegal drug misuse in the industry, the commandant is required to set the minimum random drug testing rate at 50 percent when the positivity rate for drug use is greater than 1 percent.

For additional information, contact Patrick Mannion at 202-372-1033.

Credential Forms

The National Maritime Center (NMC) pointed out forms currently in the CG-719 series for merchant mariner credentialing show an expiration date of 03/31/2021 during a periodic renewal process for an approved Collection of Information.

“Until final approval is received, we ask the maritime community to continue using the current version of the CG-719 series of forms,” the NMC stated.

 For additional information, contact the Customer Service Center at 888-427-5662, IASKNMC@uscg.mil, or by using the NMC online chat system.

Fire Detection Systems

The Coast Guard announced it will suspend and grant exemptions from fire detection system regulations due to the lack of approved systems available for purchase.

“Specifically, the Coast Guard believes that between July 22, 2021, and July 22, 2022, there may be no approved fire detection systems available for purchase for certain vessels that need to install or replace those systems,” the Coast Guard stated in the Federal Register.

“For enforcement purposes, existing approved fire detection systems that were approved on July 21, 2021, will be treated as approved until July 22, 2022.”

The suspension followed a change in the standards for smoke detectors.

For additional information, contact Brandi Baldwin at TypeApproval@uscg.mil.

Electrical Engineering Standards

The Coast Guard published a notice of proposed rulemaking to update electrical engineering standards, eliminating outdated or unnecessarily prescriptive regulations and adding acceptable alternative standards.

“This proposed regulatory action would be consistent with the standards currently used by industry and support the Coast Guard’s maritime safety mission,” the Coast Guard stated in the Federal Register.

Comments must be received by July 21 and may be submitted by using www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Raymond Martin at 202-372-1384.