The U.S. Coast Guard has been given a two-year reauthorization to continue their work on land and sea. To explain the bipartisan legislation, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) visited Coast Guard Station Indian River on Dec. 3.
“Coast Guard’s been around forever, and we are grateful,” Carper told the assemblage, which included service people hailing from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania, the Carolinas to California and Michigan to Maine.
Carper also recapped his own military experience, such as submarine tracking in the Navy, which included partnerships with the Coast Guard during the Vietnam War.
He spoke of efforts to find common ground in passing this “strong, bipartisan bill that provides the Coast Guard with the resources it needs to safely defend our shores and waterways,” Carper said.
Congress must reauthorize the Coast Guard every year or so, to continue their mission forward. The Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140) allows them to continue their jobs, plus some expanded authorities.
“I think that is a huge issue for the Coastal Guard, and it’s going to do a lot for our commandment,” said Rear Adm. Keith Smith, commander of the 5th District, in thanking Carper for continued support.
“This is a great step forward,” said Smith, who also said he doesn’t believe the Guard lost any powers in this bill.
He said it helps what they want to do with digitization of healthcare records; border protections in trafficking and smuggling; unmanned aircraft; a review of arctic operations; multi-year contracting; and clarifications for recreational boating safety.
“That’s the support we were looking for,” Smith said.
The bill became law on Tuesday with President Donald Trump’s signature.
Although the bill authorizes $10.1 billion and $10.6 million for two fiscal years, Smith said Congress still has to approve the actual funding in a future appropriations bill, whenever that may be, which is a whole other kettle of fish.
As Democrat on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, Carper helped negotiate a bipartisan provision to help the local ecosystems the Guard serves. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) protects waterways by restricting discharges pollution and invasive species, such as from ballast water. The EPA will establish standards, while the Coast Guard will monitor and enforce standards. (States may establish no-discharge zones if areas require additional protection.)
The Dec. 3 event at Station Indian River also included an advancement ceremony for Bosun’s Mate 3rd Class (BM3) Brennan Piemonte, who was promoted to Bosun’s Mate 2nd Class. Piemonte is from Massachusetts and joined up in 2015.
“You never know who might show up” to the monthly advancement ceremonies, Smith joked.
By Laura Walter