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Begich Gains Support for Increased Icebreaker Capabilities, Coast Guard Activities in Arctic

Homeland Security Appropriations Bill $493 Million Less Than Last Year 

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today successfully inserted several provisions to support increased Coast Guard activity in the Arctic including Arctic research, polar icebreaking capability, infrastructure and response capabilities. The provisions are included in a subcommittee version of the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014.

The bill is $493 million less than the Fiscal Year 2013 amount. Sen. Begich has been consistent in his call for eliminating unnecessary spending and setting  priorities during this time of fiscal restraint.

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, the Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard, Sen. Begich has been vocal in his support for greater icebreaking capabilities for the Coast Guard in order to accommodate increased shipping activity and oil and gas development in the Arctic.

“The shrinking Arctic sea ice is opening up a new frontier of maritime commerce and development. The U.S. must make sure we are prepared for the increased traffic and that is why I worked to secure critical resources to support Coast Guard activities in our Arctic waters,”  Sen. Begich said. “I have long called for stronger icebreaking capabilities and today’s bill is an important step in that direction while still keeping our spending in check.”

Sen. Begich also was successful in requesting additional positions to address sexual assault in the Armed Forces. Sen. Begich has been vocal in his concern about sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military and has been a consistent supporter of legislation to prevent sexual assault and to help victims of sexual assault. 

“Sexual assault has no place in our military or in society as a whole. The current situation is entirely unacceptable,” said Sen. Begich. “I’m pleased my colleagues recognized the importance of combatting this problem and included provisions in today’s bill to make sure our military men and women are protected.”

At Sen. Begich’s request, several other provisions were included to support the Coast Guard and the growing opportunities in the Arctic:

Icebreaking Capability – Includes language stating the importance of acquiring a new icebreaker to assist with Arctic shipping, fishing, and energy development. The provision states the Coast Guard must accelerate development of operational requirements for the vessel and ensure the capacity and viability of the industrial base.

Planning for Infrastructure and Response Capability in the Arctic—Requires a report on the cost of renovations to support and homeport a National Security Cutter in the Arctic.

Requires an Arctic Strategy Report—Requires a report on an implementation plan for the Coast Guard’s recently released Arctic Strategy.

Polar Icebreaking design - $2 million for design for a new icebreaker.

Others provisions important to Alaska include:

  • $13 million to restore 600 Reservists to Active Status to ensure a ready-sized force.
  • $1 million and six new positions to address sexual assault in the Armed Forces
  • $8 million and 184 additional positions to maintain one of the two High Endurance Cutters.
  • Provides funding for acquisition of six Fast Response Cutters instead of two, creating production line efficiency resulting in cost-savings of $5 million per hull.
  • $16 million and 242 additional positions for drug and migrant interdiction activities.

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