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Homeland Security Spending Bill Includes Murkowski-Requested Funding to Bolster U.S. Polar Icebreaker Capability


UPDATE: The full Senate today approved the Fiscal Year 2010 $42.7 billion Homeland Security Appropriations conference report. The bill will now go to President Obama for his signature.

Homeland Security Spending Bill Includes Murkowski-Requested Funding to Bolster U.S. Polar Icebreaker Capability

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced Oct. 20 that the full Senate passed a $42.7 billion Fiscal Year 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations conference report that includes $32.5 million to enhance United States' polar icebreaker capability.

The icebreaker funding, which was included at Murkowski's request, would go to finish the reactivation and service life extension of the Polar Star, which is coming out of caretaker status. The bill also directs the Coast Guard to begin survey and design and conduct a business case analysis for either a new heavy polar icebreaker class vessel or major service life extension for existing heavy icebreakers. At present, the only working heavy icebreaker, the Polar Sea, has five years remaining on its service life.

"While reactivation of our second heavy icebreaker helps, the U.S. must begin to plan for the long term replacement or extension of our ice breaker fleet," Murkowski said. "These vessels are becoming increasingly important as access to the Arctic, and its resources, increases due to climate change and a reduction in summer sea ice.  Activities such as energy development, tourism, marine transportation and shipping will increase and the Coast Guard must have the resources to respond. This funding is a good start."

Murkowski is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and served as a conferee. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill also funds the Coast Guard, which has a large presence in Alaska with more than 2,000 active personnel in over 20 communities, 15 cutters and two air stations. In addition to providing rescue operations, the Coast Guard monitors more than 950,000 square miles of water off the Alaskan coast, enforcing U.S. fisheries law, and patrols an even larger area of the North Pacific to stop illegal, large scale, high seas drift netting. The conference report includes $8.8 billion for the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2010.

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