Begich Calls on White House to Fund Arctic Plan
Coast Guard shouldn’t have to “Rob Peter to Pay Paul”
While welcoming a national focus on changes in the Arctic, U.S. Senator Mark Begich said today the federal government needs to commit resources to take advantage of the opportunities in a warming Arctic. His comments came in response to the Obama administration’s rollout today of the implementation plan for The National Strategy for the Arctic Region.
“It’s about time the administration is recognizing what Alaskans have known all along: the U.S. is an Arctic nation. But it’s time for them to commit to the resources needed for icebreakers, a deep water port and other facilities and equipment,” Begich said. “There’s a lot of great ideas in this plan, things like improving Arctic science and communications infrastructure, improving sea ice forecasts to support safe oil and gas development or finally charting the Arctic seas to ensure safe shipping. But we have had enough lip service to these priorities. I hope when the President rolls out his budget next month, he demonstrates he is ready to get serious about the Arctic in concrete ways.”
“I am particularly concerned about the U.S. Coast Guard, one of the key federal agencies in the region. The Administration has consistently shortchanged U.S. Coast Guard operations and infrastructure. Regional Coast Guard commanders have had to rob Peter to pay Paul to conduct their Arctic Shield operations. While they have done a good job with the resources they have, it’s time for Arctic operations to get its own line in the budget. We also need to get serious about recapitalizing our Coast Guard icebreaker fleet. For too long we have been putting off committing funds to reactivate the icebreakers we already have and building the next generation of heavy icebreakers.”
“We are a little more than one year out from the U.S. chairing the Arctic Council, the principal international body guiding Arctic affairs. To be taken seriously as a chair and to ensure Alaskan and U.S. goals are achieved, we need to start demonstrating concrete commitments to action in the Arctic,” Begich said.