July 28, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations
Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the House Appropriations Committee. Your
consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation such as funding for Amtrak. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. As a result, a variety of critical programs are under-funded. The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas. The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs together with mandatory offsets. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such mandatory proposals for other priority discretionary programs, including those funded through this bill.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill could seriously compromise the Coast Guard's and the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) operations and modernization projects, compromise highway safety, and harm other important programs. The House could partially accommodate the funding increases recommended below by adhering more closely to the President's request for the Airport Grants program, High Speed Rail, Coast Guard Alteration of Bridges, and other programs. The bill also includes a number of objectionable language provisions. The Administration's concerns are discussed below.
The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the request for Coast Guard and FAA operations. We ask that the Committee restore the $72 million reduction to Coast Guard Operating Expenses and to eliminate the Committee's direction to reallocate funds among programs. The Committee mark would force the Coast Guard to lay up certain cutters and aircraft and decommission one of the Nation's three polar icebreakers, which would, among other effects, compromise the integrity of our Exclusive Economic Zone and leave critically depleted fish stocks under-protected.
Likewise, we ask the House to restore the $56 million reduction to FAA Operations. These funds are necessary to ensure that the FAA can hire the safety inspectors and security personnel needed to meet the demands from increased air travel.
Coast Guard and FAA Modernization
The Administration urges the House to fully fund the request for Coast Guard and FAA modernization to ensure that the infrastructure necessary to fulfill their missions in the future is available. The Administration urges the House to restore the $54 million reduction to the request for Coast Guard capital replacement funding. This funding is necessary to complete projects that will reduce the Coast Guard's future operating costs, improve mission performance, and provide adequate facilities and housing for Coast Guard personnel. We are particularly concerned about large cuts to the seagoing buoy tender replacement, the Deepwater Capability Replacement Analysis, and family housing. These cuts ultimately would adversely impact all Coast Guard activities, including drug law enforcement. In addition, we urge the House to fully fund the President's request for the Nationwide Differential Global Positioning System and for adding a second civil signal to the Global Positioning System.
The Administration urges the House to provide an additional $130 million for the FAA Facilities and Equipment account. Funding at any lower level could delay National Airspace System Modernization. In particular, full funding is required for the Host Computer replacement and other Year 2000 conversion activities. The Administration objects to the elimination of funding for the Flight 2000 program. This program is a key element of the FAA's plans to make a transition to a more efficient, user involved, satellite-based air traffic control system to meet the air traffic needs of the next century.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for Amtrak funding. We urge the House to allow Amtrak to invest these capital funds flexibly, as provided in the Senate bill and as presently done by Federal Transit Administration grantees. In addition, the requirement that the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approve a Capital plan for Amtrak constitutes a legislative veto. The Administration will interpret this provision to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS vs. Chadha.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
To protect the safety of automobile travelers adequately, the Administration asks that the House work with the authorizing committees and provide an additional $12 million for high-priority National Highway Traffic Safety Administration programs. These vehicle safety and consumer information activities are essential to provide consumers with up-to-date safety information, to conduct critical research on advanced air bag systems and the biomechanics of injury, and to develop improved crash test dummies.
The Administration requests that the House provide an additional $50 million to fully fund the President's request of $100 million for the Access-to-Jobs program. This program is a critical component of the Administration's welfare reform effort. The additional resources are essential to helping more individuals in communities around the country make a successful transition from welfare to work.
Office of the Secretary
The Administration urges the House to provide the President's requested $62 million for salaries and expenses of the Office of the Secretary and to delete the Committee's recommended new account structure and limitation on political appointees. These adjustments to the Committee bill are necessary to avoid a reduction-in-force and to allow the Secretary to manage the Department effectively.
The Committee has earmarked almost 300 transit projects, as well as many airport, Intelligent Transportation System, and rail projects. Consistent with the Administration's objection to earmarks in TEA-21, the Administration believes that funds should not be directed to projects that cannot meet established selection criteria.
The Administration requests that the House delete the provisions in both the Coast Guard and FAA operating expenses language that would prohibit the Coast Guard and the FAA from evaluating options for collecting fees for their services. User fees may be a critical means in the future for ensuring that the Coast Guard and the FAA have adequate resources to meet their operating and capital needs without significantly reducing other vital transportation programs.
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee prohibition of any future changes to automobile fuel economy (CAFE) standards. This significant policy issue should be addressed analytically through the process in place under Federal law and not preemptively settled through the appropriations process.
Finally, the Administration is pleased that the Committee recognizes the need to review the Coast Guard's roles and missions but objects to the Committee's proposed blue-ribbon panel. This proposal would add significant administrative and procedural requirements to the process, delay the Deepwater contract by at least a year, and be more costly than the Administration's proposed advisory council. The advisory council would provide an objective, third-party assessment of the Coast Guard's roles and missions in a time frame consistent with the planned Deepwater procurement.