Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA), emphasizes a point as he asks CG RADM Joseph Vojvodich a question about cooperation between CG and MARAD.
USCG Rear Admiral Joseph Vojvodich responds to Rep. Garret Graves' question about the illegal export and scrapping of the USCGC STORIS in Mexico.
On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 3, a hearing was held before the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation related to the status of acquisition programs for Coast Guard cutters.
Speaking before the committee were Rear Admiral Joseph Vojvodich, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition and Chief Acquisition Officer for the Coast Guard; Michele Mackin, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Congressional Research Service.
A key focus of this hearing was to discuss how the government – and specifically the Coast Guard – is addressing and moving forward in response to problems that surfaced during the National Security Cutter and Fast Response Cutter acquisition programs. This, even as additional ships from these classes are still being built and new cutters are planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter program. Other issues such as need and acquisition for Polar Class icebreakers were also discussed.
The Web site for the hearing with documentation, prepared comments and a full video of the proceedings is here:
As the hearing approached the one hour mark, Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana shifted the direction of discussion toward RADM Vojvodich to inquire about cooperation between the Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard. Rep. Graves specifically referred to the DOT Inspector General’s Audit of the MARAD management controls that identified problems in relation to identification and control over disposition of government vessels. This was discussed in the post on this site on Dec. 22.
Rep. Graves asked about inventorying efforts between the CG and MARAD to identify cutters slated to be disposed of and scrapped. The admiral responded that he had no specific knowledge of any such disposal list, though he confirmed that CG does work with MARAD. The Congressman asked for elaboration to be submitted for the record related to the activities between the CG and MARAD.
Graves then specifically pointed out that STORIS was scrapped in Mexico in violation of US Federal Law. The Congressman then posed the question to the admiral of whether he would state for the record if he was aware of any efforts to address that legal inconsistency with MARAD regarding STORIS. RADM Vojvodich did not have an answer to the specific reference to STORIS but indicated that he would submit a response to Congressman Graves’ question for the record.
Based on his delivery, RADM Vojvodich was caught off guard by the question.
The hearing then continued on to discuss assessment and acquisition of polar icebreaking assets.
Watch the exchange related to STORIS between Rep. Graves and RADM Vojvodich here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPhnxjksayk&feature=youtu.be&t=3489
This is a significant development in that a senior officer of the U.S. Coast Guard was officially put on the spot in a Congressional hearing about what happened to STORIS and an answer is required. This is a good step forward in seeking answers for what was allowed to happen to STO.
Two facts are worthy of note. One is that RADM Vojvodich served as Executive Officer of STORIS ca 1997-99. https://www.uscg.mil/flag/biography/JosephVojvodich.pdf Now this is nothing personal against RADM Vojvodich, as a couple of STO vets have indicated he was a great guy and he is a STORIS veteran. However, in the greater scheme of things, he is a senior officer that is part of the administration that was complicit in the destruction of the ship. While he may not have had personal involvement or responsibility, he’s a high-ranking officer within the CG Administration. As this whole affair has transpired, the higher you go in the food chain, the level of concern and sympathy for STORIS’ fate becomes inversely proportional to the level of seniority, rank and political position.
The other major point to recognize is that Rep. Graves is responsible for introducing HR 2876 in the House. This is the House version of the STORIS Act. He’s on the ball and brought STORIS to the forefront of a major Coast Guard hearing.
For STORIS supporters who live in the Pelican State, it would be greatly appreciated if you can reach out to Rep. Graves’ office to thank him for his comments at this hearing. The phone numbers for the Congressman’s offices are 202-225-3901 (DC) or 225-442-1731 (Baton Rouge). You can send a simple email thank you to the email submission site at https://garretgraves.house.gov/contact/email. (If you haven’t already submitted a more formal letter of support for the STORIS Act, I can get you contact information to send a letter of support by email and bypass the postal mail or the email site. More direct…)
Efforts are moving forward to get this legislation passed and it is clearly an active topic of discussion in Washington.
There will be more developments coming with this and I will post as soon as I have more to add.
In the meantime, I have had four more STORIS Vets indicate to me that they are interested in writing letters on behalf of the ship. I have also just submitted my letters to my Congressional Representatives, as I had been waiting to time it in conjunction with some legislation that they were pushing for. They will be hearing from me by phone as a follow up next week.
I am hoping to hear from more STORIS supporters around the country as we work to push this legislation forward.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will set you up with a letter template and information for your specific Congressional Delegation. Zip Code +4 numbers will need to be included in the email to identify the correct senators and representatives.