“Objective review of our processes, policies and practices by entities outside of the Coast Guard is a welcome opportunity,” said Ingolia. “This program review provides us with another opportunity to improve upon the complex practices and procedures involved in our administrative proceedings.”
The GAO audit calls for a review of Coast Guard rules and regulations governing proceedings conducted under the Administrative Procedure Act and a comparison of them to those used by other federal agencies.
Coast Guard ALJs are bound by law and regulation to adjudicate civil administrative matters in a fair and impartial manner. They possess the same training, and are bound by the same ethical standards and administrative requirements, as counterparts at other federal agencies.
Since 2007, the Coast Guard has embarked on a number of ALJ program improvements that include:
- Improving the transparency of the Adjudication Process
- Increasing and formalizing the separation between ALJs and Coast Guard Investigating Officers
- Improving the efficiency and professionalism of the Suspension and Revocation process
- Improving the capacity and performance of the Coast Guard’s ALJ Program
- Enhancing service delivery to mariners and maritime industry customers
- Expanding outreach and advisory mechanisms
The seven Administrative Law Judges presiding over Coast Guard cases are annually assigned more than 600 suspension and revocation hearings, 100 cases dealing with fisheries violations and permit violations and 120 Transportation Security Administration cases including Transportation Worker Identification Card security assessment reviews.
Of the approximately 6,000 cases processed since 1999, nearly 5,000 were either settled by mariners and the Coast Guard, admitted or withdrawn with little or no ALJ involvement. Of the remaining 1,000 cases, mariners requested hearings and then had more than two-thirds settled prior to a fully adjudicated hearing. Since 1999, ALJs have issued decisions and orders subsequent to full evidentiary hearings in fewer than 200 cases. Decisions of ALJs are publicly available via the Internet at http://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/home.do? and then selecting the Regulations/Administrative Adjudications menu.