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In 1997, the Coast Guard interdicted 206,155 pounds of drugs. In Fiscal Year 1999, the Coast Guard believe they will only interdict 167,000 pounds. The rest of the drugs are going to be sold on our streetsand in our schools I believe this is totally unacceptable.
The Coast Guard is going to be combatting drug smugglers for the next 20 years; therefore, we should permanently assign more vessels to this mission. Meanwhile, we're going to spend 17.6 percent of the operating budget on fisheries law enforcement, while we only spend 13.3 percent on drug interdiction. While fisheries enforcement is important, keeping drugs off our streets is more important.
Maybe it is time for Congress to set a minimum amount of resources dedicated to the Coast Guard's drug interdiction mission and the Coast Guard Authorization Bill. The Coast Guard's efforts in Operation Frontier Shield was successful in interdicting drugs that would have gone through Puerto Rico. I'm disappointed that we will not be able to continue these efforts this coming year.
Admiral Kramek, as I said last year, the Coast Guard is doing a commendable job implementing the Government Performance and Results Act. On January 8th, Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Oberstar, our ranking democratic member, wrote Transportation secretary, Rodney Slater, urging you to consider using the financial management software developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, rather than spending millions to develop your own software. We're hopeful that you can save time and money, even if it only accomplishes 95 percent of what you want in an ideal world.
We're disappointed that almost 2 months after the letter was written, the Coast Guard has yet to visit the Corps for an initial presentation. Our staff was able to have a presentation in less than 2 weeks. Using this type of free software will free up otherwise scarce resources for your acquisition and construction budget.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I'm very disappointed about the administration's proposal to charge what they call a user fee for navigational aids operated and maintained by the Coast Guard. These fees are clearly unlawful, since they are really a tax. Buoys, lighthouses, and other navigational aids protect our citizens and the environment from maritime disaster. Every citizen of the United States benefits from this system of 50,000 buoys. Therefore, our navigational aid system has always been funded out of the general treasury. While the navigation tax proposal may not have been initiated by the Coast Guard, they are ultimately going to take most of the heat, since they're the ones that will develop the regulations to charge these fees.
I urge the legal staff at OMB and the Department of Justice to carefully examine the many court cases involving user fees, and they too will conclude that the administration lacks the legal authority to charge user taxes for aids to navigation.
Thank you, Chairman Gilchrest, and I look forward to working with you on the authorization of appropriations for the Coast Guard, once the Senate has passed the Authorization Bill this aisle sent them last year.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
I'll now introduce Admiral Robert Kramek, Commandant United States Coast Guard; Master Chief Petty Officer Rick Trent, United States Coast Guard; and Everette Tucker, National Commodore of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Gentleman, we look forward to your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF ADMIRAL ROBERT E. KRAMEK, U.S. COAST
GUARD, ACCOMPANIED BY MASTER CHIEF PETTY OFFICER ERIC A. TRENT, AND COMMODORE EVERETTE L. TUCKER, JR., U.S. COAST GUARD AUXILIARY
Admiral KRAMEK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll make a brief oral statement, and submit my written statement for the record. Also joining us in the room today is Vice Admiral Jim Loy, my chief of staff of the Coast Guard, who will relieve me as Commandant at the end of May.
Mr. GILCHREST. Admiral, we have a lighting system that doesn't seem to be working, so we'll probably just turn it off.
Admiral KRAMEK. I'll take less than 5 minutes. And then Commodore Everette Tucker and Master Chief Rick Trent have some short opening statements as well.
We have a good team, and I'm surrounded by part of my team here. Ev has 34,000 auxiliarists and volunteers that work for him, and the Master Chief takes care of over 30,000 of our enlisted personnel. All totaled, our Coast Guard calls itself Team Coast Guard, because that's the way we work together to get our job done.
This team had a very productive year as lifesavers and guardians of the sea. With all that we do, we do lifesaving first when people call for help. Over 5,000 lives saved this year, 50,000 calls for rescue and assistance, and over $2.5 billion in property saved.
We also have kept our oceans safe and clean around the world. You had an opportunity to visit many of our stations this year, Mr. Chairman, and go all the way to Antarctica with the Master Chief to see us break out McMurdo to resupply. You know how environmentally sensitive that area is.
But we work with the International Maritime Organization, leading the U.S. delegation for safer shipping, for cleaner seas. There's been less oil spills, there's been less accidents. Our passenger vessel industry in this country is the safest in the world, and it's just tremendous achievements made by our marine industry on all fronts.
We also protect our living marine resources and, Mr. Clement mentioned how much we spend on fisheries. Fisheries are a major source of protein for the developing countries of the world; and major countries of the world, Russia and China, depend on 40 percent of their protein from the sea, and you know how huge those countries are. That's what's put a tremendous stress on our fisheries. And as we've gone through fisheries management plans and enforcement plans—which is not the responsibility of the Coast Guard, rather the responsibility of Department of Commerce it's given us a huge amount of work to do. The United States has the largest exclusive economic zone of any country in the world; 47,000 miles of shorelines out to 200 miles.
One only needs to look at Alaskan Aleutian Islands, the richest fisheries in the world, which is our responsibility to patrol the Berring Sea in the north Pacific Ocean to understand the task we have before us.
Protecting our maritime borders from drugs, illegal migrants. You've mentioned the statistics this last year. And we're also a distinct instrument of national security, being the only member of the Armed Forces, of the five members of the Armed Forces, that have law enforcement authority, which makes us unique. Therefore, we're utilized in training-40 of the 70 navies of this world are coast guards, and we're used to jointly work with the Department of the Defense to train them in how to protect in their own countries, and we've done that all around the world this year. Those funds are paid
for by the Department of Defense. They're paid for by the State Department, either through Partnership For Peace programs or-Nunn Lugar funds. But we are a distinct member of the Armed Forces, in that today we have a Coast Guard cutter on the way to enforce the embargo against Iraq and the Arabian Gulf. It's a mission that we do. There are merchant vessels that need to be boarded and inspected to make sure contraband doesn't go to Iraq. As well as we stood up some forces that are classified—I can't tell you about. But we provided Port Security Units, mostly from our Coast Guard reserve, for this recent call up to prepare for whatever conflict we might have with Iraq.
This budget before you is a current services' budget. It's based on the Congress and the Administration's balanced budget agreement, which flatlined my agency's budget for the next 4 years. And that's why we're asking for about the same amount within about 2 percent of what we asked for last year, because that's what the balanced budget agreement was all about.
I ask for your approval of our request. It will allow the Coast Guard to carry out the missions we've been assigned at the same up tempo as last year, or at least almost the same service level. There's some slight reductions we have to make in order to take care of increased costs from inflation, healthcare, and those types of things.
We've also come up with almost $60 million in savings in our budget this year, continuing on our streamlining program. We feel we're the model in government for that. We streamlined $400 million in overhead expenses per year from our budget, Mr. Chairman, and will contribute $2.6 billion in savings for the balanced budget agreement by the year 2002, while reducing the Coast Guard's workforce by 4,000 people.
We are the smallest now since 1965, and our uniform service to put it perspective is smaller than the New York City Police Department in spite of all of the missions that we have to do. Our people are working very hard at the small boat stations you visit; 81 hours a week is typical, and at sea it's a lot more than that. My people are the most important to me. All the aspects of this budget support them, for their housing, their pay, their well being, and approval of this budget will continue that.
Tomorrow's Coast Guard is just as important, however; and the things that we're building-ships, the boats, improving the aircraft, and our Deepwater project-are very important. Trade's going to triple in this country in the next 15 years, and 95 percent of our imports and exports go by sea. Mega ships are being built. We're going to need mega ports to handle them. Passenger vessels are increasing from 2,000 passengers to 5,000. Some on the drawing board carry 8,000 passengers. Container ships are increasing from 2,000 and 3,000 TEU's to 4,000 to 6,000 and some on the drawing boards for 8,000 containers.
A container ship with 6,000 containers, Mr. Chairman, draws a lot of water, and the containers stretch for 20 miles on the highway, 20 miles on the railroad, all on one ship coming into our waters.
This stresses our waterways more. There's more users. There's more people moving to coastal areas. More demand for our services. Continued depletion of the fisheries because of population increases as I've mentioned. And interests that extend beyond the exclusive economic zone, to the deep sea for ocean mining, and things that will eventually develop as a result of the Sea Treaty. Drugs will continue, migrants will increase, and operations other than war, which will require the Coast Guard to address as a member of the Armed Forces will increase. We work jointly to assist the CINs in that.
Use of information and knowledge and technology will improve our effectiveness, and we're a leader in that, but we need the best equipment; not 50-year-old Coast Guard cutters, without the capability to serve America as we enter the 21st century; rather approval of our acquisition construction and improvement budget for our ship building and boat building programs that are underway.
I would point out that the budget provides for the minimum order quantity on all of our contracts, but it does provide for what I feel is our most important acquisition; and that's to continue the Deep Water Systems acquisition. The President is asking for sufficient funds for us to go ahead with this most important procurement to make the Coast Guard ready for the 21st century.
These are national investments, Mr. Chairman, for all Americans, not just Coast Guard investments. And I want to thank you for your strong support this year. You've traveled and visited almost as much as the Coast Guard as I have. I really applaud your efforts to be our Chairman, and for all that you've made yourself aware of. And I extend that to Congressman Clement as well. The two of you are almost at every function that we have. You're very, very knowledgeable of what we do, and I'm very, very proud to be able to testify before you today.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Admiral. Well, we've also enjoyed traveling with the Coast Guard, and learning from the inside, out, the kind of activities that they're involved in.
Officer TRENT. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the state of Coast Guard enlisted personnel with this distinguished committee today.
As I begin my remarks, I want to join the Commandant in thanking you for your support of the Coast Guard. The American people rely on services the Coast Guard provides, and your support has ensured they wouldn't be disappointed. I also want to thank each of you for supporting the quality of life improvements that we've asked for over the past few years for Coast Guard members and their families.
There are approximately 35,000 active duty and reserve component enlisted men and women in the Coast Guard today. Primary responsibility of the master Chief Ptty Oficer of the Coast Guard is to advise the Cmmandant on all matters that affect enlisted people and their families. To ensure that I am knowledgeable about issues pertinent to enlisted members and their families, I have personally talked with thousands of them, while visiting more than 300 Coast Guard units during the past 45 months. I also receive regular input from a network of senior enlisted leaders in the field, and also from my wife, Linda, who regularly meets with ombudsmen and spouses of enlisted members throughout the Coast Guard.
As a result, I believe I have a clear understanding of the issues that affect enlisted persons and their families. I am confident in my ability to provide appropriate advice to the Cmmandant, and I believe qualified to get substantive input to this committee.
When I appeared before this committee a year ago, increased workload was the top issue affecting the morale and quality of life of Coast Guard enlisted members. The downsizing associated with the Coast Guard streamlining plan had cut the enlisted workforce by more than 2,000 members, while there had been no decrease in the demand for Coast Guard services. Unfortunately, this situation has further deteriorated, and workload is still the number one issue impacting Coast Guard enlisted members and their families.
The Coast Guard is currently more than 900 enlisted members below authorized strength, and the operations tempo remains very high. Most enlisted people still work extraordinary long hours, in many cases averaging 80 hours and more per week. So far, they have done what Coast Guard people always do; they suck it up, and continue to perform beyond all reasonable expectations. Their dedication, loyalty, and sacrifice has ensured the Coast Guard has the ability to respond in any mission areas, providing the services the American people value.
However, I watch retention of career-enlisted members decline, and recruiting become more difficult. I must tell you, I'm starting to become a little apprehensive and concerned about how much longer this effort can be sustained.
Today, more than ever before, Coast Guard enlisted members are exposed to consistent negative rhetoric regarding their pay and benefits. The insecurity caused by this constant churning of threats to their pay and benefits creates an environment of stress that takes a real toll on Coast Guard members, often distracting their attention away from their jobs. They are just plain tired of worrying about their well-being and the well-being of their families. Many are affected enough to look for careers outside the Coast Guard.
In my statement for the record, I have requested your assistance in halting this continuous assault on military pay and benefits. I have also outlined several issues and needs that would improve the quality of life for Coast Guard enlisted people and their families. I request that you give these important Coast Guard enlisted recruiting and retention issues serious consideration.