BUSH MSP, TITLE XI PROPOSALS DRAW OPPOSITION
The Bush Administration’s proposals to shift the Maritime Security Program from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the U.S. Department of Defense and to provide no new funding for the Maritime Administration’s Title XI shipbuilding support program has encountered opposition in the U.S. Congress.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. chairman of the Oversight Panel on the Merchant Marine of the House Armed Services Committee voiced his opposition to the Bush initiatives as the panel met to discuss the Maritime Administration’s authorization request for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We take strong exception to the administration’s budget in many areas,” Hunter said, citing the Bush proposals.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has gone on record opposing the administration’s proposal to transfer the Maritime Security Program from the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration to the Department of Defense.
Lott said he met personally with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Sean O’Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, to express his opposition to the proposed MSP shift.
The Commerce Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee also dealt the Administration’s MSP proposal a setback, by appropriating $98 million for the liner support program under the Department of Transportation.
Despite mounting political and industry opposition to the Bush proposals, Acting Deputy Maritime Administrator Bruce Carlton said his agency is continuing to work with DOD to prepare for the transfer. Carlton said MarAd will continue this course despite the House appropriations subcommittee action.
The administration’s proposed the transfer to “consolidate the management of like programs and (to) achieve greater efficiencies,” Carlton said.
The administration’s MSP initiative is not aimed at eliminating the program, but administering it “at its full funding level,” Carlton said.
Carlton said there are no cost benefits linked to the proposed MSP transfer, and that the move is based on the need to coordinate all defense programs under one roof.
Carlton said MarAd will continue to manage the existing Title XI loan portfolio with $3.98 million in funds requested for administering the program. Also, the DOT expects a $10-million carryover from the last budget that will be used to continue funding the cost of new shipbuilding loan guarantees, Carlton said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, last Wednesday came out in support of Bush’s proposal to eliminate federal assistance for the Title XI Maritime Guaranteed Loan Program.