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Murkowski Questions DHS Whether Icebreaker Is A True Priority

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski today asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano whether the $8 million requested for opening work on a new United States Coast Guard icebreaker truly indicates support for Alaska’s and America’s needs as an Arctic Nation, given the $860 million total price tag for an icebreaker.

After pointing out her concern about the relatively small initial down payment on the project, Senator Murkowski asked the Secretary “My question is whether or not the icebreaker acquisition has become a higher priority for this administration … has icebreaking and our capacity to move forward aggressively taken a higher priority in this administration?”

“We believe that the country needs another icebreaker,” Napolitano answered, pointing out that the Polar Star is presently in dry dock and not due back on the water for a year and the USCGC Healy will be taken out of service soon.  The question, she said, was finding the future funds for the more resource-consuming construction phase in the years ahead – which will need to come out of operational costs.

Two weeks ago at her address to the Alaska State Legislature, Senator Murkowski shared her concerns about the initial $8 million investment in the icebreaker process – joking to state lawmakers that “8 million dollar will barely buy you a porthole.”

Senator Murkowski opened her icebreaker line of questioning with Secretary Napolitano by thanking her and the Department of Homeland Security for all of their operational support and cooperation with the Nome voyage through the ice of Norton Sound in early January. Today’s interaction took place when Secretary Napolitano testified before Senator Murkowski in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

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