Legislation Also Protects Aviators and Provides for Rural Firefighters
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which includes a series of provisions secured for Alaska by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Senator Stevens, the most senior Republican on the Committee, worked with Senators from both parties to ensure Alaska received its fair share of federal funding and projects.
The Senator was successful in both protecting the President’s budget request for the U.S. Coast Guard and adding Alaska-specific bill language. Thanks to these efforts, the legislation enhances the Coast Guard’s presence in our state and promotes programs that are critical to the agency. This includes funding for the integrated deepwater systems ($1 billion), polar ice breakers, marine safety programs, and additional Coast Guard housing in Alaska.
“With the increasing importance of its homeland security mission, the Coast Guard needs Congress’ support more now than ever,” said Senator Stevens. “In Alaska, our Coast Guard is on the frontline as they protect our massive coastline, conduct search and rescue missions, and enforce our fisheries laws. I am pleased that the Committee fulfilled my requests to enhance both the Coast Guard’s capabilities and presence in Alaska.”
The provisions championed by Senator Stevens that benefit the Coast Guard include:
Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet – This provision provides $7.6 million to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet to operate the vessel through 2009. The Acushnet enhances the Coast Guard’s ability to patrol the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Administration proposed decommissioning the Acushnet.
Coast Guard Housing – Senator Stevens protected the $11.6 million that was in the President’s budget for Coast Guard housing in Cordova.
Continuation of LORAN-C and Transfer to E-LORAN – This provision will ensure the continuation of the Coast Guard’s Long Range Navigation (LORAN-C) system while it transitions to E-LORAN. The LORAN system provides civil and military air, land, and marine users with navigation, location, and timing services in Alaska and other states. In some parts of Alaska it is impossible to receive a GPS signal. However, LORAN reaches almost all areas of the State. Senator Stevens has been a long-time supporter of the system and this funding will ensure there is no break in navigational service during the transition.
Polar Icebreakers – This statutory language makes an additional $4 million to maintain the USCGC Polar Star in caretaker status and requires the Coast Guard to submit a report on polar mission requirements no later than August 31, 2008.
Marine Vessel and Cold Water Safety Education – This language encourages the U.S. Coast Guard to continue existing co-operative agreements and partnerships with organizations that promote vessel training and education for fishermen and children.
Senator Stevens also worked with Committee members to deny the Administration’s request to increase the aviation passenger security fee. With 70 percent of Alaska’s communities reachable only by air year-round, this fee could have had a disproportionate impact on the State.
In addition, the Committee fulfilled Senator Stevens’ request of $3 million for rural fire equipment. These funds will allow Alaska Village Initiatives and rural villages across the state to apply for funding to purchase foam canisters for communities that do not have access to running water. Senator Stevens first authorized funding for this program by adding a provision to the Fire Administration Reauthorization Act.
Alaska will also be eligible to apply for a wide variety of grants made available for state and local programs that provide training, equipment, exercises, and technical assistance to improve disaster readiness ($3.1 billion). The bill specifically appropriates monies for implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative ($139.9 million); state homeland security grant programs ($890 million); aviation security and bag screening ($6.88 billion); port security ($400 million); and rail security ($400 million). The FY09 Homeland Security Appropriations bill also includes funding for Firefighting Assistance Grants ($750 million).