Murkowski Presses DHS Secretary on “Arctic Nation,” Alaskan Issues
Icebreaker Needs, TSA Inconsistencies with Knives on Planes, TWIC Card Access, Nat’l Security Cutters All Part of Rapid-Fire Exchange
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski took advantage of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s appearance before the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to address and prod her on a number of key Alaska concerns.
Murkowski led off by asking the Secretary if she agrees that America – as an “Arctic Nation” – needs more than one icebreaker. She then proceeded to question the Secretary about the burdens placed on Alaskans trying to renew their TWIC cards, the need for more national security cutters to protect our waters and the wrongheaded decision of the Transportation Safety Administration to allow knives on planes.
Arctic Nations Need More than One Icebreaker – Russia has 33
Senator Murkowski reminded Secretary Napolitano of the US’s distinction as an Arctic nation and the responsibilities associated with that – specifically the importance of adequately supporting Arctic assets and infrastructure like polar icebreakers. Senator Murkowski sought answers from Secretary Napolitano on the Coast Guard’s Arctic Policy, a plan which will map out the agency’s future plans in the region – from polar icebreakers to deepwater ports, and prepare for increased vessel traffic in the Bering Strait.
Finding Efficiencies in Alaska Waters – Homeport a National Security Cutter in Alaska
With national security cutters that traverse Alaska’s hundreds of thousands of square nautical miles homeported thousands of miles away in California and Hawaii, the inefficiency of their response and transit times back and forth is glaring. Senator Murkowski asked Secretary Napolitano to study the savings and responsivity that could result by homeporting security cutter in Alaska waters. Napolitano agreed to, saying “We would be happy to look at the advantages and disadvantages of doing that, especially with a national security cutter.”
TWIC Program – “Eight is Not Enough” for processing centers statewide
Senator Murkowski called attention to the progress being made by the Department of Homeland Security when it comes to improving the bureaucratic process that comes with Alaskans trying to get their Transportation Worker Identification Credentials – after she wrote a letter in November urging them to cut the red tape involved, which currently requires a minimum of two trips to get a card – and also opening more centers to Alaskans. In light of recent news that Kodiak was going to get a part-time TWIC service center, Murkowski said “As good as eight is, eight is not enough. We’re a state one-fifth the size of the continental US, and 80 percent of our communities are not accessible by road. I want to continue working with you on that.”
Knives on Planes – Less Safe, Longer Lines?
Senator Murkowski then took up the issue of allowing up to 2.36 inch knives onto planes. She raised questions on two tracks: whether allowing sharp blades up to the length allowed would make our skies less safe and whether this would likely lead to greater delays for air passengers passing through security gates – as guards would measure and determine whether certain knives could get clearance through. Murkowski told the Secretary she has spoken with many concerned Alaskans, as well as those in the commercial airlines industry and is “concerned that we could see greater delays, therefore eliminating some of the rationales for this policy.”