Washington, D.C. – Reflecting bipartisan and bicameral negotiations, today the House unanimously passed H.R. 4188, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015. The bill, which includes numerous provisions secured by Alaska Congressman Don Young, advances long sought reforms and priorities to protect the Coast Guard’s mission of protecting our oceans and waterways. Both Congressman Young and Senator Sullivan, who both serve on Committees of jurisdiction, worked in their respective bodies to negotiate terms of this legislation.
Congressman Young Shares Thoughts on House Passage of Coast Guard Authorization (click here to watch).
“I’m happy to report to Alaskans that today we unanimously passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015.The Coast Guard is a great unit which works well for Alaska and the nation as a whole. With 44,000 miles of coastline in Alaska, it’s important that we keep our Coast Guard strong and support their critical mission. This bill has a number of important provisions important to Alaska, on top of the reforms and improvements made to reaffirm our commitment to the Coast Guard. Federal land transfers in Tok, at Point Spencer and on the Pribilof Islands are all examples of working together with local governments to find common sense solutions. This bill is a good piece of legislation. It’s one of the bright spots we have here in Congress these last waning days filled with a lot of chaos. I’m happy to have been part of this process, I was happy to work with Chairman Duncan Hunter, and I look forward to finishing this bill on the Senate side with the help of our Senators and getting it to the President’s desk.
H.R. 4188 advances a number of important Alaskan causes offered by Congressman Young, including three stand alone bills he introduced:
- H.R. 2038, the Tok Land Transfer, will authorize the conveyance of U.S. Coast Guard housing facilities in Tok, Alaska to the Tanana Chiefs’ Conference to ensure the continuation of the region’s only behavioral health clinic.
- H.R.2284, the Point Spencer Land Conveyance Act, will convey 2,500 acres of federal lands to the Bering Straits Native Corporation, State of Alaska, and United States Coast Guard to streamline future infrastructure development and potential uses of Point Spencer.
- H.R.325, the Pribilof Islands Transitions Act of 2015, authorizes the Department of Commerce to transfer or exchange Pribilof Islands lands to the village corporations of Saint Paul and Saint George Islands, and giving those village corporations the first priority right to acquire that land on their respective islands.
- Fishing Vessel Classification: Language secured by Congressman Young to create an alternative vessel classification compliance program for the construction of new fishing vessels and fishing tenders from 50 to 79 feet in length. Since coming into effect, new classification rules have caused uncertainty in classification costs, which has had negatively impacted the construction of newer, safer fishing vessels. Through alternative compliance, safety can be achieved without arbitrarily expensive requirements.
- Icebreakers: Language supported by Congressman Don Young to advance the nation’s icebreaking fleet was included in H.R 4188. The language requires a determination on the feasibility of refurbishing the USCG POLAR SEA by the USCG within 1 year of enactment. Further, the bill enlists the National Academy of Sciences to do an in depth cost comparison of various options to meet our immediate icebreaking needs. In addition, the bill includes language that authorizes the Coast Guard to contract for the acquisition of a polar icebreaker using incremental funding. Incremental funding has been used by the U.S. Navy to reduce the overall impact on the service’s budget during large vessel acquisition. The Coast Guard’s acquisitions budget of approximately $1 billion would not have the capability to simultaneously support current recapitalization efforts and an icebreaker that may cost nearly $1 billion.
Specifically, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 would:
- Authorize the Coast Guard for Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 at currently authorized levels, ensuring the Service has the resources it needs to successfully conduct its critical missions.
- Alleviate administrative burdens on mariners by requiring the Coast Guard to harmonize the expiration of merchant mariner credentials, radar observer endorsements, and medical certificates.
- Require the Coast Guard to certify local physicians to make medical fitness determinations of merchant mariners.
- Bolster shipyards and mariners by requiring the implementation of a program to promote the transportation of LNG on U.S. flag vessels, using U.S. mariners.
- Ensure Coast Guard officers and enlisted service members receive access to the same benefits as their counterparts in the Department of Defense.