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Blumenthal-Led Provisions to Improve Water Rescue & Bolster American-Made Drones Included in Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill Passed By Commerce Committee

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) applauded the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s passage of the bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Act today with several provisions he championed to improve water search and rescue efforts and prioritize American-made drones, and urged additional work to allow cruise ship workers to hold cruise lines accountable in U.S. court. 

“This bipartisan measure continues our national commitment to upgrading Coast Guard readiness—investments strengthening our maritime economy and coastal security so critical in Connecticut,” said Blumenthal. “Interdicting drugs, saving lives offshore, aiding recovery from weather catastrophe—the Coast Guard is a force multiplier in meeting diverse challenges. Connecticut has a special bond with Coasties—including the Academy and soon a National Museum. I’m proud that provisions I championed were adopted as part of this bill. The Aqua Alert program will undoubtedly save lives by expanding public awareness of the Coast Guard’s search and rescue efforts when people are lost offshore. Ensuring the Coast Guard purchases American-made drones instead of foreign-made ones will help secure our intelligence from adversaries. Still, significant work remains to improve cruise line safety, and I will continue fighting to hold cruise lines accountable—and for cruise ship workers to be able to seek the relief they deserve.”

Blumenthal secured the inclusion of the following provisions in the Coast Guard Authorization Act, including:

  • Supporting the Coast Guard’s Water Search & Rescue Efforts: At Blumenthal’s urging, the Coast Guard Authorization Act includes a measure establishing a pilot program in three different areas of the country for an AMBER Alert-style alert to assist the Coast Guard during water search and rescue efforts. The program will allow the public to sign up for mobile phone alerts that raise awareness of an individual lost in the water—aiding Coast Guard recovery efforts. Blumenthal’s provision is a version of the Aqua Alert Act introduced by U.S. Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN), which was included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and passed by the House in July. The measure authorizes $3 million to carry out the program and requires the Commandant of the Coast Guard to submit an annual report to Congress on their status.
  • Prioritizing Coast Guard’s Purchasing of American-Made Drones: Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) secured the inclusion of a provision to ensure the Coast Guard purchases American-made unmanned aircraft systems over foreign-made ones by limiting procurement exemptions. The provision clarifies that the exemption allowing the procurement of foreign-made drones is only for the purposes of counterintelligence operations, electronic and information warfare testing, and training, as well as expands the list of foreign countries from which procurement is banned to include Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China. It also authorizes $2.7 million to replace the foreign-made drones the Coast Guard currently has with U.S.-or ally-manufactured drones.

Blumenthal has long fought to ensure cruise line safety and to hold cruise lines accountable, including introducing an amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Act to ensure cruise ship workers have access to justice in U.S. courts. Currently, cruise line employees—both citizens of the United States and of foreign countries—are typically not able to sue cruise lines in a United States federal or state court for injuries or other harms they suffer. They instead are restricted to arbitration in the country in which the ship is flagged, which rarely results in adequate compensation. Blumenthal’s proposed amendment, which was withdrawn with intention to continue negotiations, would have amended the Convention Act to permit cruise line employees to bring their cases in U.S. courts.