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, has been appointed to a U.S. Senate-House conference committee that will reconcile differences in the two chambers’ appropriations bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security in the fiscal year that begins October 1.
The Senate Thursday night passed a $42.9 billion Homeland Security spending measure 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 of the Polar Star, which is coming out of caretaker status, and 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 seven 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, which wrote the homeland security spending bill. The Department of Homeland Security includes 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. 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 Senate bill includes $8.9 billion for the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2010, which begins Oct. 1.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $42.6 version of the homeland security spending bill last month that does not include polar icebreaker funding. Murkowski said she will work to retain the funding in the conference report.
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