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October 2011 Issue

Group of Senators Forms Oceans Caucus
Eighteen U.S. senators in September formed the Senate Oceans Caucus, a bipartisan group that will work to increase awareness and find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts.

U.S. senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will serve as caucus co-chairs. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who respectively are chair and ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, will serve as honorary co-chairs. Other senate caucus members are Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Scott Brown (R-Maine), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

During their first meeting, the senators adopted a founding charter that lays out the principles for the caucus and discussed international and domestic fisheries policy, gaps in ocean science and challenges to ocean and coastal resource management.

The senators were joined by representatives from ocean and coastal organizations supporting their efforts, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Ocean Industries Association, the American Association of Port Authorities, the National Federation of Regional Associations for Coastal and Ocean Observing, and Ocean Champions.

Pentagon: Potential Cuts Would Be 'Unacceptable'
Nearly $1 trillion in defense cuts that the 2011 Budget Control Act could require would devastate the military and the defense industrial base and could add 1 percent to the nation's unemployment rate, Pentagon press secretary George Little said in September.

The "sequestration" mechanism in the nation's debt-reduction law automatically takes more cuts out of federal spending if Congress fails to enact further measures to reduce the deficit by November 24.

Little said that $1 trillion in cuts would make it necessary for the Pentagon to break faith in some areas, including jobs and salary benefits.

For the Defense Department, that means another $500 billion from defense spending over 10 years, on top of $350 billion in cuts already identified over the same period.

"If we move toward sequestration, ... we would be looking at, in all likelihood, the smallest Army and Marine Corps in decades, the smallest tactical Air Force since [that branch of the service] was established and the smallest Navy in nearly 100 years," Little said.

The nearly $400 billion in cuts already expected from the Defense Department "is hard but manageable," Little said. "Tough choices have to be made. A trillion dollars in defense cuts is unacceptable."

Proposed LightSquared Network Could Interfere With GPS, Committee Fears
The Committee on Science, Space and Technology in September held a hearing to examine concerns and issues associated with interference on GPS from the proposed LightSquared LLC terrestrial broadband network.

LightSquared is seeking approval from regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to build a $14 billion broadband network using airwaves previously reserved for satellites. Officials testified that there is potential for interference that could disable the GPS signal used for critical government services and science missions.

Discussing the importance of GPS to natural disaster prediction and response capabilities, Mary Glackin, deputy under secretary of NOAA, said that LightSquared's original spectrum plan would "cause serious performance degradation or a total loss of mission for a wide range of our operational systems" and would put its fleet of meteorological satellites at risk.

Since initial testing, LightSquared has modified its proposal, though its network will still be adjacent to existing GPS spectrum.

Committee Considers Coast Guard, Piracy Bills
The U.S. House Transportation Committee in September marked up legislation reauthorizing the U.S. Coast Guard, which includes programmatic reforms to help ensure the service can better utilize resources and more efficiently replace its aging assets.

Additionally, the committee considered legislation to bolster the United States' ability to counter piracy. One section of the bill would allow armed guards on certain vessels.

The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2838) was introduced in September by Coast Guard Subcommittee Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.). It authorizes the service for fiscal years 2012 through 2014 and provides a service strength of 47,000 active duty personnel. The bill authorizes $8.49 billion for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2012, $8.6 billion for fiscal year 2013 and $8.7 billion for fiscal year 2014.

This bill includes provisions that will give the Coast Guard and its personnel greater parity with other branches in the Department of Defense. The bill contains a title intended to reform and improve Coast Guard administration. It prohibits the acquisition of a sixth national security cutter until certain capabilities planned for the first five are in place.

The Piracy Suppression Act of 2011 (H.R. 2839) was also introduced in September by Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and LoBiondo. The bill is designed to strengthen existing authorities against piracy, as well as increase the penalty for piracy to include capital punishment.

H.R. 2839's backers said the bill would improve an existing training program that instructs mariners on acceptable use of force against pirates; authorize armed security on vessels carrying government-impelled cargo through high-risk waters; encourage other countries to contribute to the existing international effort to suppress piracy; and include a report on ways to improve U.S. efforts to track ransom payments and the movement of money through Somali piracy networks.



2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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