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Begich Introduces Coast Guard Reauthorization Act

Addresses nation's Icebreaker shortage, other Alaska needs

Giving the United States Coast Guard the necessary tools and resources to carry out its statutory missions, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, today introduced the Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013.  Begich was joined by Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Oceans subcommittee Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as co-sponsors of the legislation.

"The men and women of the Coast Guard put their lives on the line every day to save those at risk on the sea, enforce the laws governing our fisheries and maritime safety, and guard our national security," Begich said.  "I am honored to serve as Chairman of the subcommittee that authorizes this essential armed service.  Last year, Congress passed into law the first Coast Guard authorization act in many years. With this new authorization bill, we renew our nation's commitment to the Coast Guard and make sure they have the cutters, aircraft, small boats, shore facilities and statutory authorities to perform their varied and necessary missions."

"As one of our nation's primary first responders, the Coast Guard is vital to our national security, economic security, public safety, and environment," said Chairman Rockefeller.  "We depend on the Coast Guard to keep us safe and secure, but their ability to do that rests on their access to resources and other support necessary to carry out their missions.  This authorization bill will give the Coast Guard the crucial support it needs to execute their duties successfully."

"The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2010 was a long overdue assurance that the Coast Guard will have the authorities and authorizations necessary to support the service's critical and diverse missions.  This bill builds on the reform efforts of the recent reauthorization, and in particular, will provide the Coast Guard with the capability necessary to efficiently and cost-effectively rebuild its aging fleet," said Ranking Member Snowe.

The legislation authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard's funding levels at $8.7 billion including operations; acquisition and maintenance of vessels, aircraft and facilities; research, the reserve program and retired pay, and other statutory missions.  The bill sets the active duty personnel levels for the service at 47,000 and makes a number of improvements, clarifications and refinements to the Coast Guard's statutory authorities.

Other components of the bill include:

·         Making the Coast Guard the sole provider of polar icebreaking services to agencies of the federal government, and require the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that the Coast Guard continues to operate a minimum of two heavy polar icebreakers as a part of its fleet;

·         Authorizing the Coast Guard advance procurement funding authority for the purchase of new ship construction materials, parts, and components that have a long "lead time" to make sure the Coast Guard is able to replace its timeworn fleet at the best possible savings to the taxpayers;

·         Requiring the Coast Guard to study the feasibility and potential of establishing a deep water sea port in the Arctic to protect and advance United States interests within the Arctic region;

·         Requiring the Coast Guard to consult with other federal, state and local entities in the determination of what improvements are necessary to make the harbor at St. George, Alaska a fully functional harbor throughout the year; and

·         Authorizing the Coast Guard to construct or lease a hangar, berthing, and messing facility in the Aleutian Island operating area to support Coast Guard operations in remote areas.

The bill would also transfer the decommissioned cutter STORIS to a Juneau group for use as a museum honoring the Coast Guard's role in Alaska history; adjusts funding levels for the Cordova-based Oil Spill Recovery Institute for inflation, and other provisions.

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