Senators Landieu and Murkowski Conduct Senate Field Hearing in Kodiak
On Monday, August 6th, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Mary Landrieu, the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, conducted a U.S. Senate Field hearing in Kodiak to discuss the needs of the United States Coast Guard as they guard and patrol Alaska's northern waters.
The field hearing was intended to provide testimony for the need of additional funds to the Coast Guard. The two senators are currently working on a bill that would allocate $10.336 billion to the Coast Guard, $282 million above president's request.
The meeting, that took place at Base Support Unit Hanger Three, was opened by Senator Murkowski as she highlighted the Coast Guard's commitment to Alaska's waters. “We put you in harm’s way to guard us,” said Murkowski, “We must ensure you have the assets to do what you do so honorably.”
Senator Landrieu echoed the concerns of Senator Murkowski – who stressed that America is an Arctic Nation and must place a higher priority on our efforts up north – by saying that many decision makers in Congress and in the White House haven’t fully realized this fact. “The alarm has sounded, but we keep hitting the snooze button,” said Landrieu.
The Senators took testimony from the Coast Guard Commandant and a panel of academic and industry experts about the Coast Guard missions and assets and the Arctic.
United States Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp was questioned by the senators over matters ranging from the nation’s need for icebreakers to the response capabilities supporting offshore exploratory drilling.
On the issue of icebreakers, Papp says that once the Polar Star returns to the water, that gives America enough cover as it finalizes a long-term plan; with regards to response abilities, Papp told the Senators that there will be over 20 vessels in the Beaufort/Chukchi areas if Shell gets to drill.
The panel, consisting of Dr Mark Myers of University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Merrick Burden with the Marine Conservation Alliance, and Bruce Harland of Crowley Marine, discussed the rise of technology in informing navigation and research capabilities in Arctic waters, along with the rise of shipping traffic through narrow regions like the Unimak Pass and the Bering Strait.