Putting Boating Safety in Homeland Security a Mistake, Says Boat US

The Bush administration’s push to put all federal programs now administered by the U.S. Coast Guard into a new Department of Homeland Security is a mistake which may jeopardize the safety of millions of Americans who go boating, says the half-million-member Boat Owners Association of The United States, the nation’s largest organization of recreational boat owners.

The Bush proposal, recently approved by the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, would move the entire Coast Guard, including its boating safety, boat defect, factory inspection, education and state safety grants programs into a new agency whose sole mission will be protecting America’s security and combating terrorism.

“These consumer safety programs which are essential to the well being of some 70 million Americans who go boating every year will get lost and buried in the new homeland Security Department. They will also be a source of distraction from the new agency’s core mission,” charged Boat U.S. Government Affairs Director, Michael Sciulla.

In fact, Boat U.S. believes that budget strapped Coast Guard operations may well benefit by moving from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the new Department of Homeland Security, where presumably more money will be available to refurbish its aging fleet of ships, aircraft as well as its coastal communications system.

“While these new assets may well create a new Coast Guard that is much better able to perform its on-the-water search and rescue mission, you don’t need to put scarce uniformed Coast Guard military officers in a city office to make public policy decisions on recreational boating safety matters when they could be defending our coasts and saving lives at sea,” added Sciulla.

Since recreational boating fatalities constitute the second largest number of transportation related deaths, Boat U.S. contends that the Coast Guard’s boating safety program should be placed in a new maritime safety office in the U.S. Department of Transportation which has similar offices for auto, aviation, truck and rail safety.

“We hope to convince the Senate that the safety of the American public will be enhanced by moving the Coast Guard’s military functions to Homeland Security and leaving its boating consumer programs in the Department of Transportation,” he added.