Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Morning Mariner: President Barack Obama

President Obama visiting a Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup site

The two previous posts were rather long, but since those candidates took the time to answer the questions I put to them, I thought it worth the space to give their complete answers. President Obama did not respond to my questions, so we (and he) will have to live with his record on maritime issues as mariners decide who to vote for. On Wednesday, I'll look at the statements and records of the major Republican candidates.

Deepwater Horizon and Offshore Drilling. Early in his administration, Obama called for expanded offshore drilling. Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Obama Administration put a moratorium on all drilling that lasted several months. Even when permits began to be issued late last year, the pace was too slow for many critics. Most recently, the Administration has developed a five-year plan of what the Wall Street Journal called “modest expansion” of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico only – the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still off limits.

The Jones Act. As a candidate in 2008, Obama said
The Jones Act is a vital part of our national defense and supports American workers. As President, I would fully enforce it. The Jones Act should be waived only under rare circumstances… Furthermore, maintaining the American merchant marine fleet is vital to our economy and national security. I would oppose any move to undermine this Act.
Despite this, Obama waived the Jones Act requirement more than 50 times last summer to allow foreign-flagged vessels to transport oil released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He was criticized heavily by American shipping companies, who said more than 30 US-flagged vessels were available but not utilized.

Size of the Navy. Under Obama, the number of “battle force ship” construction proposed in the federal budget has increased to levels not seen since the Cold War. A total of 32 such vessels were procured in Obama’s term, with 12 expected to be built in 2013, the most in any year since 1990. As a comparison, in each of Bill Clinton’s terms the Navy built 20 vessels, in George W. Bush’s first term it built 24, and in his second 20.

Inland Waterways and Infrastructure. Obama’s most recent economic bill included money for infrastructure improvements on land, but nothing for the nation’s inland waterways. At the same time, the Administration has proposed a user fee for vessels using locks and dams to help offset the costs of repairs.

TWIC Card. Obama signed a law late last year that provides for possible amendments to the TWIC process, specifically allowing mariners to receive their TWIC cards without a second trip to the TWIC center. The law only provides for s feasibility study of such a change.

Role of the US Coast Guard. Obama addressed the graduation class of the Coast Guard Academy earlier this year. He commented on the varied role of the Coast Guard in the modern world
And while we can never predict what the future may hold, we know that the complex missions asked of our Coast Guard have never been more important. Around the world, we need you to partner with other nations to secure their ports, protect the vital shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf, combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, and help train foreign partners from the Americas to Africa to Asia. Here at home, we need you to stop those smugglers, and protect our oceans, and prevent terrorists from slipping deadly weapons into our ports.


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