Sen. Murkowski's April 4th 2008 eNewsletter

Senator Mukowski Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators In Introducing Legislation to Improve Care for Women Veterans

I recently joined with a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to introduce legislation to improve care for women veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation, the Women Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2008 seeks to prepare the VA for the unprecedented influx of female veterans who will access care there in the coming years. VA officials estimate that the amount of women who will utilize the VA will double in the next five years.

The legislation will address many of the unique needs of female veterans by authorizing programs to improve care for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), increase research on the current barriers to care, and expand women veterans staff positions at the VA. For more specific improvements the bill makes click here.
Women make up one of the fastest growing subgroups of veterans. As the Department of Veterans Affairs works to ensure that those who serve our Nation are not left behind, it is essential for them to recognize the physical, mental and reproductive health challenges that face women veterans may require a different menu of services, delivered in a different way than the VA has grown accustomed to.

Senator Murkowski Urges Opening of ANWR

I recently introduced legislation to open the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska to oil and gas development when the price of oil reaches $125 a barrel. Oil prices are likely to keep rising and are unlikely to slow unless oil development is increased.

This legislation, the American Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008, would automatically open 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain of the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration and development if the world price of oil reaches $125 a barrel for five days. Exploration and development in ANWR would be governed by a series of strict environmental safeguards that prohibit more than 2,000 acres of the refuge from physical disturbance, which mandate that directional drilling be used to minimize disturbance to wildlife, and which require winter-only exploration and the use of ice roads that disappear in summer to protect wildlife habitat.

Americans are hurting each time they fill up their cars at the gas station and are forced to cut back spending on other necessities simply to afford their winter heating bills. There is a lot of hand wringing in Washington about what to do about record high oil prices that are strangling our economy. Rather than begging the Middle East for increased oil production, we should produce our own oil to increase supply and drive down prices. Alaska's Arctic coastal plain is likely to hold the largest reserve of traditional oil left on land in North America. We owe it to our country to responsibly produce domestic oil and use the revenues to promote energy conservation and develop alternative resources. Revenues that the federal government would obtain from opening ANWR: leases, royalty, bonus revenues and corporate taxes will go toward funding alternative energy development. The money will also go to paying for home energy assistance, weatherization and the Women's Infants and Children's nutrition programs whose recipients are all being ravaged by current record high oil prices.

Senator Murkowski Announces Donation of Computers to Alaska School

The United States Senate's Computers for Schools Program at my request recently shipped five computers each to schools in Slana, Yakutat, Tanana, Hydaburg and Klukwan.

It is vital to our students' education that we provide them with adequate technology to prepare for the future. I am proud to be able to donate this equipment, which will greatly improve these students' access to current technology.

Schools were awarded computers based on technological compatibility of schools' current computers with the donated computers. Preference was given to schools where it was determined that a donation of five computers would have a major impact on students' academic achievement.

The U.S. Senate Computers for Schools Program helps public schools take advantage of the information technology age by channeling surplus computers into classrooms throughout the country.

Senator Murkowski Addresses Veterans Care at an Alaska Legislative Hearing

On March 18, I testified at a hearing of the Alaska Legislature's Joint Armed Services Committee. This marked the first time a United States Senator testified in a legislative committee. I commended the Legislators for their efforts in supporting our Veterans, and specifically the sponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 11 which calls upon the Congress to provide adequate funds to the Veterans Administration to carry out their healthcare mission.

In addition, I identified the challenges we face in delivering healthcare to Veterans in rural Alaska. Far too often, rural vets are forced to travel great distances to receive the care they have earned. In March, the Senate passed a major piece of legislation to modernize the Indian Health Care delivery system. A provision in that legislation authorizes the VA to enter into cooperative agreements with the Alaska Native health system to provide care to veterans who live close to their facilities. The legislation authorizes the VA to reimburse veterans for the care that is delivered in Native health facilities. This is a start, but we know we must do more to make certain Alaskan Veterans are given a level of care on par with the rest of the nation.

Senator Murkowski Accepting Applications for Summer Internship Program

I am now accepting applications for summer internships. All Alaskan high school students in their senior year may apply for an opportunity to spend four weeks in Senator Murkowski's Washington D.C. office.

A total of twenty students from all areas of Alaska will be selected to participate in one of two, month-long sessions. The first session for the summer of 2008 will run from June 9 - July 4 and the second session will be from July 7 - August 1. Housing at George Washington University and transportation will be arranged by the Senator's office, but interns will be responsible for the cost. The Senator's office will provide a stipend to help defray these costs.

To apply for an internship, graduating high school students must complete and submit an application in person or via fax to (202) 224-5301 by April 14, 2008.

Applications are available on my website, from high school counselors, as well as from any of my offices.

The internship program offers a unique opportunity for graduating seniors to learn about the United States Senate, gain experience in a professional office and experience life firsthand in Washington, D.C. Interns will work in my office during the week, dividing their time between assisting staff and attending various meetings, tours and congressional hearings.

Senator Murkowski Applauds Efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska

I applaud the brave actions of the men and women of the United States Coast Guard who participated in efforts to rescue the 47-member crew of the fishing vessel Alaska Ranger in the Bering Sea on March 23, 2008. As a result of their heroic efforts, 42 members of the Ranger's crew survived.

The risks involved in rescuing the crew of the Alaska Ranger were extreme. It is rare to undertake a mission of this intensity and complexity. The Coast Guard faced high winds, seas, darkness, ice, and freezing temperatures all in a remote location away from support infrastructure. I am honored to praise the men and women of the Coast Guard for their heroic and successful efforts.

This case, where large numbers of people abandoned ship directly into the water, hardly ever happens. The unusual rescue is already being called "one of the greatest search and rescue efforts in modern history," by Seventeenth Coast Guard District Commander, Rear Admiral Arthur Brooks.

Senator Murkowski Visits Alaska Job Corps

During the March Senate recess I visited the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer. Job Corps is the nation's largest and most comprehensive residential career and technical education program for at-risk youth. Since 1964, the program has provided more than 1.9 million disadvantaged young people with the integrated academic, vocational, and social skills training they need to gain independence and get quality, long-term career or further their education. The Alaska Job Corps center opened in 1994 and maintains a year round population of 250 students on its 20 acre campus. The Alaska Job Corp Center is one of the nation's top performing facilities, and is consistently ranked in the top 10 percent nationwide in its overall operations as compared to 122 centers nationwide. The campus in Palmer is world-class and rivals that of small colleges.

The Alaska Job Corps center offers the following to Alaskans between the ages of 16 and 24:

- GED and High School Diploma
- Technical training in 11 vocations
- Drivers Education
- Commercial Drivers License Training
- Employability Skills Training
- Room and Board
- Basic health care services including dental and eye care
- Counseling
- Recreation and avocation
- Placement Services
- Monthly Living Allowance
- Financial incentives payable upon graduation
- Social Skills & Leadership Training
- Parenting Skills Education
- Family Facilities on Campus
- Onsite Child Care Facilities

To learn more about the program visit http://alaska.jobcorps.gov.

Senator Murkowski Addresses State Legislature

On March 18th I gave my annual address to the Alaska State Legislature.

Speaker Harris, President Green, members of the Legislature, thank you for allowing me to address the Legislature today. I want to talk about making history together, but first let's thank those Alaskans who are making us safe.

This morning I was honored to address the Joint Armed Services Committee. We talked about health care services for our veterans in Alaska. The federal government clearly needs to improve its health care services for veterans, and I promise to the tens of thousands of Alaska military personnel, veterans and their families, to keep fighting for the care they need and deserve. They didn't give up the fight to protect America, and I will not give up on them.

As elected officials, we owe it to these brave men and women to make Alaska the best place we can. Just as they are protecting our freedoms, we need to protect the jobs and homes and economy. That is what I want to talk with you about today.

As a mom, I get anxious as my oldest son starts to look at college and leaving home. It seems like just yesterday he was 8 years old, here in these chambers as a guest page. Just as my sons have grown and learned over the years, so have I.

We all learn as we get older - or at least we should. We learn from history. We learn by doing. We learn from our successes and failures.

Next year will be Alaska's 50th anniversary. That is a lot of learning. We built a real economy with roads, harbors, airports, schools, university campuses and hospitals. Opponents of statehood said it couldn't be done, but we proved them wrong.

We worked together for good of the state, for the good of all Alaskans. We looked at the problems and found a way to overcome them. We need to build on that "can do" attitude for the next 50 years.