Tag Archive: Coast Guard

“Tolerance of the Status Quo is Unacceptable”

While Governor Christie is no friend of our infrastructure (unless it is privatized), Senator Robert Menendez has been a vocal proponent for infrastructure investment and the return those investments give us in terms of jobs and economic productivity. He reiterated his views at a press conference today not far from the site of the Paulsboro railroad bridge collapse which spewed toxic material in that town and caused hundreds of families to evacuate their homes.

Menendez pointed out that the bridge that collapsed was built four years after the first transcontinental railroad was completed – hardly a reassuring thought when trains are carrying toxic chemicals through populated areas.

The bridge that collapsed is privately owned, and is not subject to the same stringent inspections and checks and balances that public infrastructure is. Yet, the bridge has been a trouble spot for its owner, Conrail, with several past anomalies that apparently were not remediated properly. Menendez indicated that he will introduce legislation to fix this problem. He said, “Tolerance of the status quo is unacceptable.”

But there will be a time for implementing a long-term solution. Meanwhile, many Paulsboro residents are still out of their homes. They will be able to move back in stages, as explained by Coast Guard Captain Kathy Moore (7:20) in the press conference – video below.

For those in the affected area, a web site has been established to provide the latest information on safety and repatriation. You can find it at www.paulsbororesponse.com.

Below the fold: Two concerns I had going into this press conference, and some (hopefully) reassuring answers.

LoBiondo’s Role in the Deepwater Disaster

I got a special treat this morning as I waited in line at WaWa when I saw the Gloucester County Times frontpage article “LoBiondo, Deepwater get into deep trouble.”  This is an excellent article on a subject that has been missing from New Jersey’s papers.  It features a detailed discussion of the Coast Guard Deepwater disaster which happened under Frank LoBiondo’s watch.

I would like to take issue with a LoBiondo quote that appears in the article:

“I was assured, our committee was assured, the Congress was assured that the United States Coast Guard at the highest levels … were overseeing this in minute detail,” LoBiondo said in an interview.

“They told us repeatedly both in public hearings and again privately that everything was on track, that they had their team in place, that the oversight was there. Clearly, something went wrong,” LoBiondo said.

They told us privately?  LoBiondo is playing the victim.  In fact, he acted as the Coast Guard and the contractor’s tool.  He actively prevented the program from being fixed, as this 2006 New York Times article on Deepwater makes clear:

At a hearing two months later, Representative Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who oversees the Homeland Security budget, instructed the Coast Guard to fix its problems and restrain costs. “You simply took the most expensive, all-inclusive Cadillac Seville and we’re going to have to, with our limited funds, fit you into something a bit more appropriate,” Mr. Rogers said. “I hope it’s more than a Chevrolet.”

To fight back, the Coast Guard and contractors relied on Congressional allies, led by Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, Republican of New Jersey, and Representative Gene Taylor, Democrat of Mississippi.

LoBiondo still has not taken reponsibility for his role in this disaster.  He should reflect on how he has squandered over $20 billion, and think about his original term limits pledge.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Open Thread: What do you want to talk about today, Blue Jersey?

LoBiondo and the Coast Guard: Where’s the Media?

You won’t find a press release at Representative Frank LoBiondo’s website, or a New Jersey article that mentions his involvement, but there have been important developments in the Coast Guard Deepwater program.  Democrats in Congress and the Coast Guard are working to undo the disaster of the major modernization program that left the Coast guard short of functional vessels and squandered billions of dollars.  LoBiondo was not only responsible for oversight as Chairman of the  House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, but actively worked to prevent the problems from being fixed

I’ll let yesterday’s editorial in the Daily Astorian of Oregon sum up this month’s developments:

In hindsight, the biggest mistake was allowing contractors to operate with an unprecedented degree of independence from ordinary governmental involvement.

Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen made a wise first step toward restoring confidence last month by voiding a $600 million contract for small cutters. The contract will be rebid and then directly managed by Coast Guard officials. [Democratic Senator Maria] Cantwell’s plan goes further, requiring already-existing Deepwater projects to restore more authority to the USCG, while providing much more information to Congress and the public.

The new legislation includes the no-brainer requirement that the Coast Guard certify that designs for new ships meet all objectives before contracts are signed and checks are written.

Ultimately, the problems with Deepwater should not be blamed on the Coast Guard or even on the private contractors. It was the job of Congress to make sure the nation got its money’s worth. Under Republican control, it failed in this most basic responsibility. We’ll see if Democrats manage to do any better.

To my knowledge, LoBiondo has never acknowledged his responsibility for the disaster.  Why should he, when the New Jersey media doesn’t show the slightest interest in the story?

LoBiondo and the Crippling of the Coast Guard: Part II

The New York Times has more today on the disastrous Deepwater Coast Guard Program I discussed yesterday.  As I thought, but the Washington Post did not say, Frank LoBiondo was deeply involved in the disaster.  You need to read the full article,  because it seems virtually every aspect of the program has failed:  the new ships don’t work, the old ships don’t work, the new aircraft doesn’t work, and the new radios were not even waterproof.  As you will see after the flip, LoBiondo actively undermined efforts to get the program under control. 

But it’s not all bad news:  Lockheed and Northrup Grumman have made billions.  And LoBiondo, in turn, is “one of the top Congressional recipients of Lockheed contributions.”

LoBiondo and the Crippling of the Coast Guard

Representative Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) has been responsible in this Republican congress for the Coast Guard:

I am pleased to announce I will continue as Chairman of the  House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in the 109th Congress. The Subcommittee exercises jurisdiction over all Coast Guard programs and activities. We are responsible for ensuring that the Coast Guard’s needs are met, its interests are served and its voice is heard.

The U.S. Coast Guard , the smallest of the nation’s five armed services, has a demanding peacetime mission. Most notably, the Coast Guard is involved in homeland security actions to secure our borders, ports and waterways against threats. However, the traditional missions of the Coast Guard still remain vital and important to our region and nation.

Let’s see how he has fulfilled this responsibility on the flip.  One hint:  The Republican philosophy of huge government spending,  private contractors, and lax oversight  has had its usual outcome.