Washington Waves
Washington Waves

House Subcommittee Looks At Mariner Shortage

Washington, D.C.—A key House subcommittee took on the shortage of U.S. mariners and recruitment and retention challenges faced by the Coast Guard.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, said the Coast Guard is  operating about 4,800 members short of the 44,500 it is authorized.

Webster said the nation’s merchant marine workforce faced a shortfall of 1,800 needed for a full mobilization to operate sealift assets in 2017.

Since then, he said, that shortage likely has grown.

Webster pointed to provisions the House panel recently included in a Coast Guard measure to reduce delays and barriers to a seagoing career and to upgrade the service’s merchant mariners licensing system.

To attract more mariners, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the full committee’s ranking member, suggested a strong message of support for the Jones Act, consistent funding for maritime security and tanker security programs and compliance with cargo preference laws.

Rep.  Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.) spoke of legislation she introduced to ensure members of the Coast Guard continue to get paid during a government shutdown.

Debt Limit Negotiations

Even without a resolution to their months-long impasse, President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders ended their second White House meeting on raising the debt limit sounding more optimistic.

That change came about after Biden agreed to name people from his administration to talk directly with those leading the negotiations for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

“It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week. It is not that difficult to get an agreement,” McCarthy told reporters even while conceding the two sides remain far apart.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) once again announced a devastating default was not going to happen.

“No. 1, we know we are not going to default. They know it. We know it,” McConnell said.

When pressed on that issue, McCarthy, who had been challenged repeatedly to take default off the table, indicated House Republicans already had done so by passing a bill raising the debt limit and cutting spending.

Biden, who shortened a foreign trip to return to Washington on Sunday, also sounded optimistic the following day.

“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget, that America will not default,” he said.

“And every leader in the room understands the consequences if we fail to pay our bills. And it would be catastrophic.”

The White House meeting came one day after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to congressional leaders warning the government now could hit its debt limit “as early as June 1.”

Users Board Nominations

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested nominations for at least seven appointments to the Inland Waterways Users Board, whose members advise the secretary of the Army and Congress.

Nominations must be received by June 15 for terms to begin by January 31.

The Army secretary recommends representative organizations to the secretary of defense for approval.

Representative organizations are to be selected from the spectrum of commercial carriers and shippers using the inland and intracoastal waterways, to represent geographical regions and be representative of waterborne commerce as determined by commodity ton-miles and tonnage statistics.

For additional information, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438 or Mark.Pointon@usace.army.mil or visit the board’s website at www.iwr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Inland-WaterwaysUsers-Board/.

USMMA Advisory Council

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appointed 13 inaugural members of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Advisory Council, including experts in administering institutions of higher learning, sexual assault and harassment prevention and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Five members of the council are USMMA graduates, including one member of the Class of 2022.

“For the past two years, we have been working to address urgent challenges at the USMMA,” Buttigieg said.

“We are grateful to members of the advisory council for stepping up at this consequential moment and helping guide our continuing efforts to strengthen the academy and ensure the safety and success of its students.”

Noting that Congress did not take up a proposal to create an independent review commission on sexual assault and harassment, Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips told a House subcommittee the advisory council is expected to be asked to make recommendations in that area.

Established pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, the advisory council fulfills a key recommendation in a 2021 report by the National Academy of Public Administration.