Murkowski Meets with Coast Guard Commandant Nominee

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The nominee for Commandant of the Coast Guard told U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today that he fully recognized the critical importance of Coast Guard missions in Alaska.

In a courtesy visit to Murkowski's office prior to a Senate confirmation vote on his nomination, Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., told Alaska's senior senator that a previous Coast Guard assignment in Alaska gave him a first-hand understanding of the weather and resource challenges Coast Guard personnel face in Alaska.

Murkowski expressed concern about the Obama administration's proposal to decommission the Ketchikan-based Coast Guard Cutter ACUSHNET without naming a replacement to fill the gap. The ACUSHNET, which employs 80 crew members, is among five medium and high endurance cutters the administration proposed to decommission in the fiscal year budget that begins October 1, 2010.

Papp said he fully understood the importance of Alaska's vast fisheries and ocean resources, and pledged to maintain a Coast Guard commitment to patrol and secure Alaskan waters, even if it meant re-deploying service assets from the East Coast through the Panama Canal to patrol eastern Pacific waters, thus allowing West Coast assets to deploy to Alaska.

Papp also said the newest vessels in the Coast Guard fleet, the National Security Cutters, will be able to function in the harsh Alaskan environment. "I am 100 percent certain that the new National Security Cutters will be Alaska tough and able to complete the Coast Guard missions in Alaskan waters," he said.

Papp also committed to visiting Alaska early in his tenure, and Murkowski said she hoped to meet him during some of his in-state visits.

"Admiral Papp and I agreed to establish an open and frank dialogue on all issues relating to Alaska," Murkowski said. "I told him I would be beating the drum over the fact that the United States is an Arctic nation and that the Coast Guard is vital to the safety and security of the region. He said he would keep me informed on Coast Guard activities that affect Alaska."

Murkowski is a member of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, which oversees the Coast Guard budget.

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