Wednesday, September 11, 2019

S 2297 Introduced – CG Authorization

Just before the summer recess Sen. Sullivan (R,AK) introduced S 2297, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019. This annual bill provides continued authority for the operation of the Coast Guard and makes changes to that operation. The House version of this bill (HR 3409) passed in the House by a voice vote.

Port Security

Section 231 of the bill amends 46 USC 70116 which was completely re-written in the last session’s CG Authorization Act (PL 115-282 or S 140 as the PL has yet to be published). This new language expands the authority of DHS (presumably through the Coast Guard) to prevent or respond to security incidents beyond just ‘an act of terrorism’. The Department would have additional authority to prevent or respond to “cyber incidents, transnational organized crime, and foreign state threats” in both subsections (a) and (b).

The DHS actions in support of this authority are exempted from the Administrative Procedures and the Analysis of Regulatory Functions chapters of 5 USC.

No changes were made to the identical language to the existing §70116 found in §70102a.

Security Plan Review

Section 308 of this bill would provide the same requirement for DHS to review MTSA security plans updates as found in §317 of the House bill.

Moving Forward

Sullivan is the Chair of the Security Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. As such he is at least partially responsible for Coast Guard related legislation (the security related provisions anyway) in that Committee. Sen. Markey (D,MA) is the Ranking Member of that Subcommittee and is a cosponsor of this bill. This bill will almost certainly be taken up in Committee in the coming months and it would appear that it would have substantial bipartisan support.


It is interesting that none of the cybersecurity provisions found in the House bill (none of them really important or significant) were included in this bill. Markey has tried to make himself known as the cybersecurity senator, but that interest was not apparently extended to Coast Guard operations.

The expansion of the security interests of the Coast Guard is another oddity of this bill. It is not clear to me why Congress created identically worded Sections 70102a and 70116 last session, but it boggles the mind even more why only one of those sections would be changed to provide additional reaction authority to the Coast Guard. There is some sort of legislative logic to this oddity, I just cannot figure it out.

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