Tuesday, November 1, 2016

National Security interests should mean US ships dismantled domestically

This doesn’t include STORIS directly, but it’s a reflection of the current mindset of our Federal Government and U.S.-flagged shipping companies related to obsolete American ships. 

Prior to STORIS being exported out of the country on 25 OCT 2013 (yes, it’s going to be three years already), the Coast Guard and GSA were pushing the narrative that the ship was a privately owned vessel that the owner was free to do with what he pleased. The State Department, however, had already been involved with the ship by declaring her a retired U.S. warship, subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Her export to Mexico required application for an export permit through the State Department.

This process through the State Department was referred to in some of the correspondence exchanges I received from other U.S. Federal Agencies. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request specifically with the State Department for the internal communications and documentation related to the STORIS export. Other than a denial for expedited response and a “we’ll check into it and get back to you,” response to my request several months later for an update, we have absolutely nothing from State. With all of the extremely shady actions of the State Department surrounding the definitely careless and likely illegal activities of former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and her cabal at State, it’s highly unlikely we are going to see anything related to the STORIS request any time soon. The FOIA personnel at State are busy fulfilling the legal demands of various court-ordered FOIA releases related to Clinton’s activities while other officials at State are likely doing their best to hide information and stall wherever possible. This is another chapter of corruption within our government at the highest levels.

I will likely have to refile and push through the Office of Government Information Systems or other means to try to get a response on that angle of this sad mess involving STO. (I’ve spoken to several retired military Veterans from Coast Guard and other service and all have said the same thing: if they had done but a fraction of what Clinton is known to have done, they would have been stripped of their security clearance and imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth. Sadly, if Clinton can escape penalty for the egregious violations for which she and her aides, cohorts, accomplices, etc. are accused, those directly responsible for STORIS’ destruction are likely off scot-free.)  

While it’s not likely that Mexico was able to glean much in the way of military secrets from a retired 71-year-old ice patrol cutter, the idea that our U.S.-flagged ships are still being sent overseas for breaking seems counter to common sense from a national security standpoint, let alone a position for American jobs and commerce. A lot of good steel and jobs are heading out of the country when U.S.-flagged ships are taken out of the country. Money is the bottom line. And there again, how any money was gained from scrapping STORIS still remains to be explained. It's always money, though.

We know that STORIS contained encapsulated PCBs, which should have made her export illegal under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. We also know that Section 3502 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 made her export as a former U.S. Government vessel illegal. The U.S. Federal Government, through the actions of officials with the General Services Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, facilitated and fast-tracked STORIS’ export to Mexico. 

STORIS was no derelict. She was in beautiful shape, needing only a coat of fresh paint and some minor maintenance to return to operational status. The MARAD condition reports released to us through FOIA back that up, showing her material condition to be the best of all the ships laid up there in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. Even Joe Pecoraro, manager of the SBRF, said she was a great candidate for a museum ship. It’s all in the FOIA documents. The Coast Guard spent over $300,000 to keep her in museum hold status from summer 2007 until 2013, when GSA bureaucrats Heather Bischoff and Tonya Dillard sold her for $70,100 to a shady used-car dealer from Southern California. “It was determined that it is in the best interest of the government to accept the high bid.” Bischoff said in FOIA’d emails.  

Our money wasted, our history destroyed, our STORIS. Gone at the whim of a bureaucrat. 

STORIS is not the only ship with ties to military honor and service that was broken up outside of the U.S. I’ve recently learned of several U.S.-flagged vessels named after Medal of Honor recipients that have been taken out of the country to be scrapped in substandard yards. Once again, a slap in the face to American Valor.

This is an op-ed piece shared with me that was published last week on TradeWinds.com, a subscription-based publication for the TradeWinds shipowners forum.

The link is here: http://www.tradewindsnews.com/weekly/1003890/national-security-interests-require-us-flag-ships-be-dismantled-at-home

There is a free trial option on the site, but I was able to get a copy through other means.

National security interests require US-flag ships be dismantled at home

If we are serious about protecting the oceans, we cannot keep breaking up US-flag vessels on Indian beaches, says MarAd former chief counsel K Denise Rucker Krepp, now a lobbyist for recycler EMR USA

October 6th, 2016 17:00 GMT  
Published in WEEKLY

At the TradeWinds Shipowners Forum USA in New York last month, Maritime Administration (MarAd) administrator Paul Jaenichen urged attendees to support the US flag fleet. It’s in our national security interest, he argued, to ensure that the country has a fleet built by American workers and crewed by US mariners. 

Agreed. But it is also in our national security interest to mandate that these vessels be dismantled in the US at the end of their lives.

Last month, the US Department of State hosted an international conference entitled “Our Ocean, One Future”. Secretary of state John Kerry said the ocean was under tremendous pressure from human activity, including marine pollution, and he implored delegates to work together to protect it. “This is life and death. This is national security. This is international security,” he said.

This eloquent argument for greater care stands in stark contrast to support by the Department of Transportation and MarAd for the brutal destruction of obsolete US-flag vessels on Indian beaches, which are littered with metal debris and toxins. The tides sweep these hazards into the ocean — the same ocean that Kerry is trying to protect. 

So how do US-flag vessels end up on beaches thousands of miles away? 

Most arrive after being reflagged into another country’s fleet. US owners submit documents to MarAd requesting government approval for the transfer. MarAd contacts the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking if there are any national security concerns associated with the request. Routinely, they say “no” and MarAd then approves the transfer.

But as Kerry claims that stopping marine pollution is a national security interest, why do US agencies support the beaching of US vessels at questionable facilities? After all, the EPA’s mission is to ensure that the US “plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment”. Is the US government practising leadership in allowing its vessels to destroy Indian beaches?

While you ponder that one, please consider that many former US-flagged vessels taken apart on Indian beaches were at one time financed, subsidised or chartered by the US government under various subsidy programmes. 

One of these is the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Participants receive $3.1m of taxpayer dollars per vessel per year for participating in this programme. Why? To guarantee that the DOD has commercial resources available to support national security. Yet there is no requirement that MSP-subsidised vessels be recycled in US facilities. 

Similarly, there is no requirement that vessels chartered by the DOD to transport ammunition be recycled in the US. That’s right: vessels that once transported US munitions are being taken apart in foreign facilities. Anyone see a national security risk with that idea? 

But that’s not all. MarAd has a ship financing programme known as Title XI. The purpose is to finance or refinance US-flag vessels built, reconstructed or reconditioned in American shipyards. And as with the other programmes, there is no requirement that Title XI vessels be dismantled in the US. 

The government shirks its leadership responsibilities when it allows US-flag vessels to be destroyed on Indian beaches. It becomes the emperor with no clothes when it lets vessels that it has financed, subsidised or chartered harm foreign waters. Protecting the ocean is in our national security interest, and it’s time to change our policies — time to mandate that all US vessels be recycled at home in conditions that are safe for workers and safe for the environment.

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