Murkowski Addresses Alaska’s Arctic & Travel Concerns in Committee
Work in DHS Appropriations Supports Coast Guard, Promotes Efficiency
WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Lisa Murkowski leveraged her position on the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to advance a number of key Alaskan and Arctic priorities – from U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers and Alaska-homeported Cutters to burdensome bureaucracy and fees on Alaskans who travel or work in transportation-related fields.
Homeporting a National Security Cutter in Alaska –Months after Murkowski pressed DHS Secretary Napolitano about the inefficiency of homeporting ships thousands of miles away that patrol Alaskan waters – especially when repairs are needed quickly – Murkowski succeeded in adding language requiring DHS to investigate the costs and benefits of homeporting an NSC in Alaska, reading:
- “The Committee is concerned about the lack of assets available for the Coast Guard’s Arctic mission. Within 120 days of enactment, the Secretary is directed to submit a report to the Committee comparing the costs of facility renovations to homeport and support an NSC in Alaska with the annual costs of transit time for deployments and casualty repair.”
(Senator Murkowski observes inefficiency of homeporting NSCs 1000s of miles away, April 2013 – CLICK to watch)
- Coast Guard Operating Expenses: Murkowski was concerned that the White House disproportionately cut the United States Coast Guard budget, putting Alaskan and American lives at risk due to lower patrol and rescue levels. She advocated for funding levels more in line with public safety. Today’s bill includes $7.069 million for USCG operations.
- $2 million for the USCG Icebreaker Project – Through Murkowski’s continuing advocacy, the Committee continues to prioritize funding efforts for these ships as other nations like China and Russia commit to building dozen for future needs.
(Senator Murkowski presses for DHS commitment to Arctic needs – March 2012 – CLICK to watch)
- Rejecting DHS Border Crossing Fee Study – Earlier this year, DHS proposed a ‘feasibility study’ in its 2014 budget to examine imposing a new fee for anyone who crossed the American border for even a limited time to shop, visit friends, attend church or to get to their job. Months ago, Murkowski ripped the proposal for negative economic impacts on American communities that lie near the Canadian or Mexican border. Today’s bill rejects the study, stopping it in its tracks.
- Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG and SAFER Grant Program): Senator Murkowski was successful in having the DHS appropriations bill fund these programs at the same levels as the 2013 enacted level, for $675 million. AFG is a key tool in improving the effectiveness of fire fighting operations, firefighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, EMS programs and Fire Prevention and Safety Programs nationwide.
- Making the TWIC Process Smarter for Alaskans – Senator Murkowski has gained a number of improvements to the Transportation Worker Identification Card renewal process, but she is committed to making the process more efficient. Today’s bill includes language requested by the Senator that requires renewals to be done more efficiently by the end of fiscal year 2014, reading:
The Committee is pleased that TSA has developed a TWIC On Visit implementation plan and notes the scheduled launch of the pilot initiative in Alaska utilizing a manual solution during the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, followed by an initiative at a second location utilizing an automated mailing solution in early fiscal year 2014, and culminating in a nationwide launch of a fully automated solution in late fiscal year 2014…the Administrator is directed to submit a report to the Committee on the plan and timeline for implementing section 709 and other plans to ease the burden on workers who must travel hundreds of miles at great personal expense to obtain a TWIC card.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for a Thursday markup.