Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Defense Panel Reviews Inland Waterways Users Board

Washington, D.C.—A review panel has been conducted on the Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB), possibly a key step in returning the suspended board to active status.

That zero-based review of the IWUB and other Department of Defense advisory committees was directed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin three months ago.

In the same January 30 memorandum to senior Pentagon leadership and others, Austin also directed the immediate suspension of all advisory committee operations until the review was completed unless directed by him or his deputy defense secretary.

Austin also used his memo to acknowledge the important role advisory committees play in shaping department policies, but added the review will focus their efforts “to align with our most pressing strategic priorities and the National Defense Strategy.”

Eugene Pawlik, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the zero-based review responses have gone through the review process and were approved by the acting Army secretary.

Since the suspension, supporters have called for its reinstatement and expressed confidence the review will recognize IWUB’s critical role.

An April 30 deadline was set for the IWUB review.

“The OSD review panel was conducted before the deadline,” Pawlik said.

“But we have no other information available at this time.”

Previously, Pawlik offered assurances the IWUB was not targeted for elimination or major changes.

He said the Corps will be proactive in getting the IWUB back to active status.

Pawlik also pointed out that the IWUB is a legislated advisory committee and cannot be abolished without congressional action.

Infrastructure Talks

President Joe Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a leader for her party on infrastructure, are putting a positive spin on talks on that topic despite big differences on size and cost of possible legislation.

A White House meeting was scheduled after the two spoke by phone.

Saying he is serious about the talks, the president said he is open to compromise on tax hikes he wants to pay for his proposal.

First Biden said he wants to reach a decision on exactly what is infrastructure.

“Then we can talk about how to pay for it,” Biden said.

 Capito told Fox News she was encouraged by Biden’s interest in narrowing down on a definition of infrastructure, making it clear she is talking about traditional projects such as roads and bridges.

On the pay-fors, Capito noted the $568-billion framework she and other Republicans unveiled focuses on expanded user fees and not tax increases.

Biden’s proposal comes in at more than $2 trillion and includes traditional infrastructure as well as items dealing with caregiving.

Earmark Requests

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the panel again will accept requests for “congressionally directed spending,” also known as earmarks.

In addition to a process promoting transparency and accountability, Leahy said a 1 percent cap will be placed on all congressionally directed spending along with a ban on for-profit entities.

He added that senators will be required to make their requests public on their websites, and the Government Accountability Office will be asked to audit a sample of the requests to boost accountability.

In February, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced her panel also will accept member requests for “community project funding” along with a set of reforms.

Earmarks were banned a decade ago following what Leahy described as “high profile examples” of abuse.

Port Needs

Leading port officials told a key House committee that infrastructure investment, rational trade policies and Harbor Maintenance Tax reform can help ports advance U.S. global trade competitiveness.

“America’s ports need robust support from the federal government to make investments in infrastructure that will enable the efficient flow of trade,” Mario Cordero, board chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.

“Ports serve as an engine for economic prosperity in our communities and provide access to markets across the globe for communities nationwide.”

Cordero also serves as the CEO of the Port of Long Beach in California.

Paul Anderson, an AAPA board member and vice chairman of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, urged the panel to prioritize freight funding in its work with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He cited a $12 billion-plus funding gap for waterside infrastructure, such as dredging, over the next 10 years and the 10-percent cap on funding available to ports in the oversubscribed Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.

Anderson also serves as the CEO at the Port of Tampa Bay in Florida.

TWIC Reader Rule Updates

Responding again to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Coast Guard published a bulletin providing updates to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Reader Rule implementation and enforcement.

Key changes:

• While the Coast Guard is not delaying the TWIC Reader Rule implementation date of June 7, 2020, for facilities that receive vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers and vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers, it will delay enforcement until January 1, 2022.

• Escort ratios for restricted areas of a facility may be adjusted.

• After completion of enrollment, new hires may be allowed access to restricted areas where another person with a TWIC is present and can provide monitoring.

Side-by-side escorting required for restricted areas will not be enforced.

Additional information can be found in the Marine Safety Information Bulletin 13-20 – (Change 3) “Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Operations – Change 3.”

Project Planning

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced non-federal interests have until August 30 to submit proposals to be included in an annual report to Congress on feasibility reports and modifications to environmental infrastructure program authorities.

 Proposals can be submitted online at: https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/ Civil-Works/Project-Planning/WRRDA7001-Proposals/.

If needed, an alternative submission process can be arranged by contacting Stuart McLean at 202-761-4931.

The annual report is required by the Water Resources Reform and Development ACT (WRRDA) of 2014.

Maritime Security Fleet

The maritime administrator approved the replacement of the APL Guam with the CMA CGM Herodote in the Maritime Security Program, recognized by Congress as the critical fourth arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to the Maritime Administration, the Maritime Security Fleet supports a strong U.S. Merchant Marine in protecting national security by providing the Defense Department with a powerful, mobile, privately owned U.S.-flag and U.S.-crewed fleet of commercial ships to call on in times of conflict or  national emergencies.

Civil Penalties

The Department of Transportation announced a final rule providing the 2021 inflation adjustment to civil penalties for violations of federal regulations.

 Effective May 3, the rule covers the Maritime Administration, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and other federal agencies.

For additional information, contact Elizabeth Kohl at elizabeth.kohl@dot.gov.