House Passes Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill That Includes Larsen Priorities
WASHINGTON—Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the U.S. Coast Guard that contains several provisions Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, has championed, including a plan for the U.S. icebreaker fleet and improved Arctic readiness. The Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 also reauthorizes the Small Shipyards program, which invests in small shipyards that create jobs in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.
Larsen spoke on the floor in favor of the bill today. Watch his floor speech here.
“Our country faces a steep opportunity curve when it comes to the Arctic, and I am pleased the Coast Guard reauthorization bill recognizes the need to improve U.S. readiness in the region. As the U.S. prepares to take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this bill signals that our country is ready to engage further in Arctic issues.
“As the Arctic increasingly opens up to more shipping traffic, our icebreaker fleet will become even more important to protect American commerce and our national security. This bill requires the Coast Guard to come to a long overdue decision about reactivating the mothballed Polar Sea icebreaker. And it requires the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and National Science Foundation to work together to develop a funding strategy for icebreakers they will all use. I am hopeful this whole-of-government approach will improve our country’s icebreaking capacity, which is woefully inadequate, particularly compared with other Arctic nations.
“The U.S. needs to participate in building infrastructure in the Arctic to protect the environment and provide safe passage for our vessels. This bill encourages the development of forward operating bases for the Coast Guard in the region, and it improves the ability of the Coast Guard to monitor, patrol, and protect our nation’s Arctic waters.
“I am also pleased that this bill includes $10 million for the Small Shipyards Grant Program, a successful effort that provides infrastructure funding to shipyards in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country. These shipyards create jobs and support our local economies,” Larsen said.
Larsen has led efforts to refurbish the Polar Sea icebreaker, and visited the vessel earlier this year.
The Small Shipyards Grant Program has previously funded upgrades to shipyards in Bellingham and Everett.
Larsen applauded the bipartisan, bicameral Coast Guard reauthorization agreement earlier this week. He also is the co-chair of the Congressional Arctic Working Group, and has been advocating in Congress for investments in Arctic infrastructure.