COURTESY OF S.C. STATE PORTS AUTHORITY/MARVIN PRESTON
The emphasis of a framework strategy unveiled by the Committee on the Marine Transportation System is on the economic value of maritime transportation and defining the federal role in supporting it. The U.S.-flag container ship M/V
Maersk Carolina is shown here at the Port of Charleston, S.C.
CMTS members are not staffers representing each
agency, but the Cabinet members themselves, as mandated by a presidential directive within the December
2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan.
All the federal stakeholders had a hand in crafting the
CMTS strategy, foremost among them the four lead agencies: the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Last July, the CMTS strategy was presented to, and
approved by, the “full committee,” which by definition
refers to its coordinating board of Cabinet-level members. A standing-room-only crowd was in attendance
for the meeting, including a handful of unexpected
guests from the White House and Vice President Dick
Cheney’s office, according to CMTS staff.
“On every level, the CMTS has enthusiastic support,
because from the beginning we were transparent and
we had interdepartmental staff participation, and that
was huge,” said Brohl, one of four dedicated CMTS
staff members who manage the day-to-day operations
of the committee, including setting meetings and serving as liaison between member agencies.
Brohl sees herself and the small CMTS staff as facilitators of activities that need to be carried out by the
member agencies and departments. She and the CMTS
staff credit the panel’s progress to its charter, as outlined
in the 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan, that elevated the
CMTS to a cabinet-level committee, with Secretary of
Transportation Mary E. Peters serving as its chair.
“You can’t go any higher,” said Gary Magnuson, a
CMTS senior policy adviser. “The previous group was an
interagency effort, but it was sub-Cabinet, and they did
not have a presidential directive. It was a recommendation
coming from some legislation, and a report in Congress.”
Magnuson was referring to the CMTS’ predecessor,
the Interagency Committee on the MTS, or ICMTS.
The ICMTS existed under the U.S. Coast Guard prior
to 9/11, when the service still was part of the
Department of Transportation.
While the ICMTS had a lot of subcommittees and
initiatives, said Brohl, “it never could really translate
those into policy decisions because they were at a staff
level, without buy-in from higher ups.”
When the Coast Guard was moved to the Department
of Homeland Security, the ICMTS “fell by the wayside,”
she said. However, when the Ocean Commission recommended the ICMTS be made a Cabinet-level panel, the
Bush administration agreed and determined it would be
a function of the Department of Transportation.