Capital Report – July


New US Interior Secretary

David Bernhardt was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 53rd secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, replacing Ryan Zinke. Bernhardt leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees who are stewards for 20 percent of the nation’s lands.

Bernhardt is an avid hunter and angler and recently served on the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also led the International Boundary Commission between the U.S. and Canada. He has years of legal experience in both the government and the private sector. He previously held several positions within the Department of the Interior.

AAPA Testifies on US Maritime Trade, Ports
And Advocates for USMCA

In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) highlighted a new report showing significant increases over the past five years in U.S. maritime trade and port-related jobs.

AAPA also urged Congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which the Trump Administration negotiated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In her remarks to the Subcommittee on Trade, AAPA Vice President of Government Relations Susan Monteverde cited statistics from a new Martin Associates report on the economic impacts of the U.S. coastal ports system. The report notes that, from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2018: the total number of jobs supported by cargo moving through U.S. deep-draft ports increased by one-third, from 23.1 million to nearly 31 million U.S. jobs; average annual salaries estimated for these jobs rose more than 17 percent, from $53,723 to $62,800, which was 27 percent higher than the average overall U.S. mean salary of $50,620 in 2017; and personal wages and local consumption related to the port sector increased by more than a quarter, from $1.1 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

New Online Tool Enables
Public Access to Ocean Data

A new web-based interactive tool for ocean mapping and planning created by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Department of Commerce’s NOAA will give everyone from ocean industries to coastal managers, students and the general public the opportunity to be an ocean explorer right from their own computer.

The new OceanReports web tool at provides users specialized “ocean neighborhood analyses,” including maps and graphics, by analyzing more than 100 ocean data sets instantaneously. OceanReports builds on more than a decade of data collection to transform how seemingly disparate ocean information can be delivered to the nation’s ocean and coastal industries, which add $320 billion in gross domestic product to the nation’s economy.

MARAD Grants for Three
Marine Highway Projects

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced $6,790,000 in grants to three Marine Highway projects. The funding, provided by MARAD’s Marine Highway Program, will go toward enhancing existing services in Louisiana and Virginia, as well as supporting the development of a new project in New York.

Projects receiving funding are: Harbor Harvest Long Island Sound Service (awarded $1,812,285); Baton Rouge – New Orleans Shuttle on the M-55 (awarded $3,155,622); and James River Expansion Project on the M-64 (awarded $1,822,093).

US Coast Guard Releases Arctic Outlook Early

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has released the Arctic Strategic Outlook four years early in recognition of the accelerated security, economic and environmental trends in the region, and the resulting demand for U.S. Coast Guard leadership.

Presently, the U.S. Coast Guard maintains two icebreakers: the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, which is a medium icebreaker, and the Polar Star, the United States’ only heavy icebreaker. If a catastrophic event, such as getting stuck in the ice, were to happen to the Healy in the Arctic or to the Polar Star near Antarctica, the U.S. Coast Guard is left without a self-rescue capability.

The Coast Guard has been the sole provider of the nation’s polar icebreaking capability since 1965 and is seeking to increase its icebreaking fleet with six new polar security cutters in order to ensure continued national presence and access to the polar regions.

USCG and the U.S. Navy have awarded VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi, a contract for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead polar security cutter.

Last December, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, the Coast Guard ventured into space with the Polar Scout project, launching two shoe-box sized cube satellites into a low-Earth polar orbit.

The satellites send data to two ground control stations: one at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the other at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska. Named Yukon and Kodiak, the miniature satellites are specifically tailored to detect 406-MHz emergency distress beacons.

This Polar Scout initiative should provide valuable insight on the process, cost and feasibility of acquiring and using organic satellites for Coast Guard missions.

The use of such satellites may improve communications in the Arctic and assist in monitoring large areas for illegal activity and helping mariners in distress.