Washington Lawmakers Urge OMB to Intervene in Relocation of Pacific Ocean Research Ships

"Administration must intervene immediately to protect the American taxpayer from needless government waste"

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Congressmen Adam Smith, Dave Reichert, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee, Brian Baird, and Rick Larsen asked the Obama administration to intervene in a flawed plan to relocate Pacific Ocean research ships because a flawed relocation process risks wasting taxpayer dollars. In a letter to Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, the lawmakers said the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Department of Commerce have failed to address concerns raised in a June 28 report by the Commerce Inspector General (IG). The IG report concluded that NOAA mismanaged the process to select a new home port for its Pacific fleet of ships by failing to consider the option of using U.S. government-owned properties – including several available in Puget Sound – rather than engaging in a costly long-term lease. The lawmakers wrote in the letter:
“The report, along with previous findings by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), shows malfeasance and irregularities which must be brought to your attention and which merit a review by the Administration.”
The Washington delegation members wrote to OMB because that office has oversight power over all executive branch spending, particularly regarding issues of alleged waste of taxpayer dollars.
“In our view, it is totally unacceptable that the federal government would enter into a twenty-year lease worth tens of millions of dollars and not be able to guarantee to the American taxpayer that it is the most cost-effective solution based on a coherent and rigorous process,” the Washington state lawmakers wrote. “NOAA and the Department of Commerce appear to continue efforts to preserve the outcome of the flawed contest they designed. We believe the Administration must intervene immediately to protect American taxpayers from needless government waste. …Such an acquisition cannot be allowed to stand unquestioned and unchallenged. The American taxpayers deserve better than mere regret.”
Two independent oversight bodies – the GAO and the IG – and numerous members of Congress have raised concerns over NOAA’s relocation of the Marine Operations Center-Pacific (MOC-P), including its four Pacific research vessels, from Puget Sound to Newport, Oregon. However, NOAA continues to pursue its Newport lease acquisition while ignoring the consideration of using government-owned facilities, which could provide a better value for the taxpayer. Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser concluded in his report that “based on our review we are unable to provide assurance that NOAA’s award of the lease to the Port of Newport provided the most cost-effective solution for MOC-P, or more generally for the government.” The Commerce IG investigated the NOAA leasing decision at the request of Cantwell, who chairs the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican.