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Begich Pushes for Support of Coast Guard Safety Team

Senators highlight need for maritime safety, security

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has joined a bi-partisan group of nine senators urging the retention of five of the Coast Guard’s multi-mission Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), including one stationed in Anchorage.

The senators have written a letter to the Ranking Members and the Chairmen of the Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Homeland Security voicing their strong opposition to the President’s proposed cut of five of the twelve existing MSST teams and disbursing the assets to the remaining seven teams. The Anchorage MSST team includes more than 70 personnel.

“The decommissioning of these units will lead to a reduced security presence on our shores, and now is not the time for reductions in our security resources,” the letter states. “The decision to eliminate these MSSTs does not make sense from a strategic or budgetary perspective and we strongly urge you to include the funding in the FY2011 Homeland Security Appropriations Act for these five teams.”

The MSST teams were created as a direct response to 9/11 to meet a shortfall in capability in maritime security and are part of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. The units provide enhanced port safety and security and law enforcement capabilities to the port where they are based and can be deployed anywhere in the country within 12 hours.

“Given the strategic importance of the Port of Anchorage, oil shipments from Valdez, and the thousands of containerships and other maritime traffic on the great circle route through the Aleutians, this does not seem to be the right time to cut back on the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security operations in Alaska,” Begich said. “I am hoping the letter from the senators representing the impacted communities will prompt another look at this decision.”

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