Coast Guard to revise self-assessment on oil spills

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The Coast Guard, which played a key role responding to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is developing a new way to measure how effectively it responds to oil spills beginning in 2011, according to a new watchdog report.

In 2009, the Coast Guard did not meet the target it set for itself of removing or mitigating at least 16 percent of oil in spills of 100 gallons or more, the Homeland Security Department inspector general said. “The Coast Guard has determined that this measure is unsupportable,” it said. “This measure has too much variability in evaluating clean-up effectiveness for minor spills and does not have an effective mechanism for recording the result of oil spill clean-ups.”

A new performance measurement for the Guard’s marine environmental protection work will be ready for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1, according to the watchdog. The report reviewed the Coast Guard’s agency-wide performance measurements for fiscal 2009 and did not mention the BP spill that began in April 2010.

The Coast Guard’s broad portfolio includes marine search-and-rescue, coastal and port security, interdiction of illegal drugs and undocumented migrants, winter icebreaking in the Great Lakes, and other law enforcement work. A recent Center for Public Integrity investigation detailed serious mechanical problems that dogged the Coast Guard’s response to the BP spill and the Haitian earthquake after years of budget cuts and mismanagement of a Coast Guard fleet modernization program.

Fast Fact: The amount of time spent by Coast Guard aircraft and boats on marine environmental protection work – which includes oil spills, ocean dumping, and preventing invasive species from entering U.S. waters – fell to 3,000 hours in 2009 from 5,000 hours in 2005.

Other new reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) or various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG):

Finance

* FHA should file civil fraud charges against American Sterling Bank because it did not follow FHA underwriting requirements, resulting in an estimated loss of more than $492,000 to the agency’s insurance fund (OIG)

* HUD failed to instruct servicers on how to handle certain defaulted loans in the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program (OIG)

Misc.

* Kansas failed to properly track the spending of more than $12 million in HUD neighborhood stabilization funding (OIG)

* Baker College in Michigan did not keep sufficient records of 2006-07 class attendance by online students, who received $20.8 million in federal assistance (OIG)

* FCC should consider expanding data about wireless industry prices, special access rates, equipment costs to help it review competitive market conditions (GAO)

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