Begich Welcomes Coast Guard’s New Arctic Strategy, Calls for Additional Action

Asks Napolitano to strengthen mission capabilities with cost-saving aircraft transfer

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today welcomed the U.S. Coast Guard’s new Arctic strategy, which focuses on improving coordination of maritime activity in the Arctic, but he called on the administration to do more to support the service’s capital and operational needs.   

“The Coast Guard should be applauded for developing new strategies for their Arctic duties while maintaining a commitment to their other missions,” said Begich. “With the increase of oil and gas exploration, shipping, tourism and fishing activity in the region, Alaskans rely upon the Coast Guard to ensure safe, secure and responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.  I expect the administration to ensure the Coast Guard has the resources necessary to execute their duties.”

The Coast Guard’s new strategy focuses on improving Arctic maritime domain awareness and shipping safety, which are issues of particular concern to Senator Begich.  The strategy also calls for increased federal, state and local government partnerships as well as increased engagement with international partners.

“The Coast Guard recognizes what Alaskans have known for a long time—to do anything in the Arctic requires creativity, close cooperation and sharing of limited resources,” said Begich. “However, even innovative strategies have their limits.  The Coast Guard cannot be expected to ensure protection in this new maritime frontier without additional resources.  Though the White House recently rolled out a new national Arctic strategy, they neglected to include any funding for critical Arctic infrastructure and assets.

Recognizing this gap, Begich presented one possible solution in a letter today to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.  In the letter, Begich called upon Napolitano to transfer underutilized U.S. Air Force (USAF) C-27J cargo aircraft to the Coast Guard.  This transfer would relieve the Coast Guard of the need to buy new maritime patrol aircraft and would result in approximately $800 million in savings.  Begich noted the amount of savings was close to the projected cost of a new heavy icebreaker.  He called on Napolitano to apply the savings achieved from the transfer of the surplus aircraft toward the building of a new icebreaker.

Contact:  Heather Handyside – (907) 350-4846