Murkowski: Supporting Coast Guard
Ensuring Coast Guard Has Vessels, Tools Needed to Carry Out Mission
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) pushed for additional icebreakers to protect our northern most border from domestic and international threats. During the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Homeland Security budget, Senator Murkowski also questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the agency’s plans to build shoreside infrastructure necessary to supporting new Coast Guard vessels coming to Alaska.
“I would argue that as an arctic nation, in the past, sea ice up north has really acted as that shield to provide protection for our northernmost border. But as we are seeing the rapid diminishment of the arctic sea ice that once protected us, and then the heightened international interest that is certainly focused on the region – coming from Russia, coming from China, coming from other nations, the importance of protecting our political, our economical, our energy, environmental, and other interests in the region needs to be a priority,” said Senator Murkowski. “We also recognize that what the Coast Guard needs to achieve its statutory mission in the Arctic is a fleet of icebreakers, and it has been recommended that there be three heavy and three medium icebreakers. So we’re are making momentum, but I am worried that we are not setting ourselves up to do more than address the needs for one icebreaker, something we recognize is going to take many years to construct.”
Senator Murkowski questioned Secretary Nielsen on expediting the construction of the two remaining heavy icebreakers and the subsequent three medium icebreakers needed.
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“The good news is that as you very well know the Coast Guard is now positioned to accept money through the DHS budget or through the Navy - that makes a very big difference. The three hundred (million) and seven hundred and fifty (million) together there will get us the next icebreaker,” said Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen. “But I share your concerns. China is much more strategic than we are in this area. Russia is much more strategic than we are in this area. This is the way to defend our sovereignty and we need to take it seriously, so I very much look forward to working with you on other creative ways that we can get the money faster into the private sector and encourage the industry to build faster.”
Background: In April, Murkowski welcomed the announcement that the Coast Guard will homeport six Fast Response Cutters (FRC), new larger cutters in Alaskan communities, which will enhance the Coast Guard’s coastal capability to perform search and rescue operations, protect fisheries, and improve resiliency to disasters throughout Alaskan waters.