Setting Sail On Maritime Security

2019-04-08T13:30:31+00:00 April 8, 2019|
(Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen/Released)

(Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen/Released)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Security held a hearing titled: “Federal Maritime Agencies: Ensuring a Safe, Secure, and Competitive Future.”

Why It Matters

The United States is a maritime nation that relies on its waterways for national security and economic growth. With increased activity in the Arctic and growing competition for resources, federal maritime agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, are central to maintaining our ocean security. Icebreakers, or Polar Security Cutters (PSC), are a crucial component of Coast Guard operations and critical to maintaining political, national security, natural resource, environmental, and other interests in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Key Points

Witnesses from various federal maritime agencies testified to the importance of continued support from Congress for the U.S. maritime industry. Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK) emphasized the contributions these agencies make, from search and rescue and port security to the safety and national security of the United States. Senator Ed Markey (MA) echoed these remarks and stated that a great, domestic maritime industry equals a better prepared and more capable military and a more competitive and dynamic economy.

The U.S. Coast Guard plays a critical role in securing maritime borders, from disrupting drug trafficking into the United States to projecting U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic. Adm. Karl L. Schultz (Commandant, U. S. Coast Guard) was resolute in his top priority for the future – maximizing readiness. For example, he stated that the U.S. Coast Guard would strive to be readier in order to preserve the economic activity that flows along our marine transportation system and to respond faster during hurricane season.

Schultz thanked the subcommittee members for Congress’ fiscal year 2019 appropriations toward the construction of the first PSCs. He emphasized the importance of replacing the aging USCGC Polar Star, which is the nation’s only operational heavy icebreaker. The construction of this new PSC would give the United States a reliable presence in the Arctic, allowing the nation to compete in maritime commerce with global forces who have asserted their sovereignty and influence in the region, such as China, Japan, and Russia.

Other questions focused on the effects of the government shutdown on the U.S. Coast Guard, with assurances from subcommittee members that they were working on legislation to ensure that in the event of a future shutdown service members would continue to get paid. The Honorable Mark H. Buzby (Administrator, Maritime Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation) shared concerns about aging vessels in the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and a declining number of qualified U.S. mariners to crew the ships, which would affect abilities of the United States to transport equipment and supplies to deploy and sustain military forces around the world.


“America’s ports, waterways, and river systems support over 4.6 trillion dollars in annual economic activity and almost 650,000 jobs. It is a hugely important part of our economy and very important that as the global maritime industry evolves and grow, that federal regulations and oversight evolve in lockstep with that growth.”— Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK)

“In the Polar regions, your Coast Guard is the sole surface presence to protect our rights and project our sovereignty. As access to the region expands and interest from China and Russia grows, it’s in our national interest to be there to enhance maritime awareness and build governance in this economically and geo-strategically competitive area.”— Adm. Karl L. Schultz (Commandant, U. S. Coast Guard)

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership          

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