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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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MARAD Reauthorization Bill Passes Senate

By Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — June 29, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (MARAD) at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The bill recognizes the important role of America’s maritime transportation system and takes critical steps to improve the management of MARAD.
The legislation also strengthens sexual assault prevention programs at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Fischer and Booker serve as the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.
Senator Booker released the following statement:
“I am encouraged the Senate passed this bipartisan legislation that invests in our ports, vessels, and Merchant Marine forces. This legislation includes provisions that will help strengthen and diversify the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy as well as enable the institution to proactively take steps to prevent sexual assault on the academy campus. Today marks a promising step towards enacting policies that provide a healthier and more inclusive environment to train men and women who are committed to serving our country.”
Senator Fischer released the following statement:
“Today, the U.S. Senate is taking action to reform and reauthorize the Maritime Administration. This agency not only plays an important role in our economy, it also works with merchant mariners to provide critical assistance to our military in times of national emergency or war. I was proud to work with Senator Booker on this bipartisan legislation and offer crucial provisions to strengthen sexual assault prevention programs for cadets at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.”
Key provisions of the Fischer-Booker MARAD reauthorization bill include:
Strengthening Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy:
· Midshipmen Sexual Assault Prevention Training: Ensures incoming midshipmen receive training on both sexual assault prevention and response as part of their orientation program. It also requires annual refresher training.
· Assault Victim Advocates: Compels the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to designate and train volunteer sexual assault victim advocates. These advocates would help victims identify resources, understand their rights, and have access to assistance in navigating investigative, health, and recovery processes.
· Sexual Assault Response Coordinator: USMMA would be required to employ a full-time sexual assault response coordinator at or near the campus, thereby ensuring a strong management structure for training and support activities.
· 24/7 Victim Hotline Access: Guarantees access to a 24-hour hotline, which would allow sexual assault victims at USMMA to receive support services.
· Enhanced Congressional Oversight: Strengthens oversight and reporting for the sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention and response program at USMMA.
Restoring Efficient Program Management at the U.S. Maritime Administration:
· National Security Vessel Management Flexibility: Allows the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to extend (on a limited basis when in the national interest) the age restrictions for a vessel in the maritime security program. This would help ensure access to U.S.-flag vessels during times of national emergency.
· Standardizes MARAD Federal Workforce Training: Establishes a standardized training database and enhances workforce plans. It would also align training policies and systems at the Maritime Administration headquarters and field offices.
· Federal Employee Drug & Alcohol Policy Compliance: Requires fleet managers to receive training on DOT’s drug and alcohol policy to increase safety for employees working on or around vessels.
Bolstering Recruitment and Standards for U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and State Maritime Academy Midshipmen:
· Bolsters Academy Class: Provides the DOT with ten additional discretionary appointments at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. This would apply to cadets with unique characteristics, including prior military service, exceptional science and math accomplishment, and underrepresented geographic or demographic characteristics.
· Strengthens Standards for Midshipmen: Requires students at state maritime academies who receive funding from the DOT to meet the necessary medical and physical standards to serve in the merchant marines.

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