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ADM Linda Fagan, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, speaks with cadets during a visit to the Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Feb 28, 2023. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

ADM Linda Fagan, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, speaks with cadets during a visit to the Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Feb 28, 2023. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Bill Includes Protections for Sexual Assault and Harassment

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1251
March 13, 2024

The bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024 has been introduced to authorize funding and strengthen the U.S. Coast Guard, aiming to enhance missions like safeguarding borders, facilitating maritime commerce, and ensuring maritime safety.

The legislation was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves, Ranking Member Rick Larsen, and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chair Daniel Webster, and Ranking Member Salud Carbajal.

The newly introduced bill includes updated provisions and the addition of the bipartisan Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act of 2024, which aims to strengthen protections for Coast Guard members from sexual assault and harassment, and ensure accountability and transparency following the Committee’s investigation of the Service’s Operation Fouled Anchor.

Initiated in 2014, Operation Fouled Anchor revealed that the Coast Guard mishandled allegations of rape, assault, and other misconduct at the Coast Guard Academy between 1990 and 2006, resulting in insufficient accountability for perpetrators and inadequate protection for victims. However, despite the Coast Guard’s collaboration with Congress on related issues, the Coast Guard did not share the results of OFA with Congress until June 2023 after it was leaked to the media.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024 also provides funding for the Coast Guard’s operations, cutter fleet, shoreside facilities, and IT capabilities for fiscal years 2025 and 2026.

The legislation supports various Coast Guard activities such as defense readiness, law enforcement on high seas and U.S. waters, illegal drug interdiction, human trafficking prevention, port and coastal security, icebreaking in the Arctic, search and rescue, maintenance of navigation aids, marine environmental protection, and oil spill prevention and response.

The Act authorizes additional resources for the Coast Guard, including two Offshore Patrol Cutters, a Polar Security Cutter, and mission-specific aircraft. The bill also supports recruitment efforts, invests in infrastructure, and amends maritime safety laws and merchant mariner credential requirements to increase the pool of qualified U.S. merchant mariners.

The bill mandates the Coast Guard to implement recommendations from its Accountability and Transparency Review to better protect its Service members from sexual assault and harassment. It also requires the Coast Guard to submit an annual report to Congress over the next three years detailing the implementation of these efforts.

“The Coast Guard plays a critical role in protecting our borders, stemming human trafficking and the influx of illicit drugs into the country, safeguarding the lives of mariners and maritime commerce, and more,” said T&I Committee Chairman Graves.  “This bill not only ensures the Coast Guard will have the resources and assets necessary to carry out its missions, it also provides much-needed protections from sexual misconduct for Coast Guard servicemembers and cadets, on par with the Nation’s other armed services.”

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