Defense Authorization Bill Contains Transit, Aviation, Maritime Provisions

July 27, 2018

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the final conference report version of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The $700 billion, 2,500-page conference report was agreed to by a vote of 359 to 54. The Senate is expected to concur next week, clearing the bill for the President’s signature.

The final bill addresses several transportation-related issues, most of which deal with maritime issues.

However, section 1719 of the bill deals with mass transit and rail issues – it orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to study and report to Congress assessing “national security risks, if any, related to investments in the United States by state-owned or state-controlled entities in the manufacture or assembly of rolling stock or other assets for use in freight rail, public transportation rail systems, or intercity passenger rail systems.” This issue is also addressed more forcefully by the House Appropriations Committee (its FY 2019 Transportation-HUD bill bans any Federal Transit Administration money from being used to purchase any equipment from companies controlled or subsidized by the Chinese government) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has a similar amendment pending to the Senate version of the bill.

There are are also a few provisions relating to  aviation. Section 1044 of the bill amends the statute governing the FAA’s noise mitigation grant program (49 U.S.C. §47504) to allow replacement windows, doors and air conditioning units at a school near an (unnamed) congested airport. Section 1070 requires a report on unmanned aerial vehicle overflights of Arlington National Cemetery. And section 1272 deals amends the U.S.-Israel cooperative agreement on countering unmanned aerial systems.

Section 2861 of the bill creates a new discretionary grant program within the Pentagon “to assist State and local governments to address deficiencies in community infrastructure supportive of a military installation” for which transportation projects are eligible.

But most of the transportation provisions dealt with the Maritime Administration (jurisdiction over which is split between the Armed Services committees and the Congressional transportation committees) and the Coast Guard (which is transportation, but also homeland security, and sometimes defense). Title XXXV of the bill reauthorizes MARAD for fiscal 2019, including the new program for replacing the training vessels used by state maritime academies that got funded suddenly in the 2018 omnibus appropriations act and is included in both the House and Senate versions of the 2019 appropriations bill.

The defense bill also contains the following provisions relating to the transportation functions of MARAD:

  • Section 3504 repeals 46 U.S.C. 53912, thus making the Secretary of Transportation’s authority to issue war risk insurance for vessels permanent.
  • Section 3505 authorizes the sharing of training vessels between maritime academies.
  • Section 3506 authorizes DOT to give some of the federal land at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to the State of New York so that New York can exercise legal jurisdiction over what happens at the Academy.
  • Section 3510 requires the Coast Guard’s electronic records on mariners can be used by MARAD.
  • Section 3511 requires MARAD to put out the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Aid to Small Shipyards grant program within 15 days after the appropriations bill providing the funding is enacted.
  • Section 3516 orders the DOT Inspector General to perform an audit of the title XI shipbuilding loan program.
  • Section 3543 orders cruise ship security personnel to undergo crime scene preservation training.


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