Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this Coast Guard Authorization Bill being considered on the floor today.
I have the unique pleasure of representing over 265 miles of pristine Florida coastline--from Miami Beach to Key West. In fact, two of the largest Coast Guard Sectors in the United States, Sector Miami commanded by Captain Karl Schultz and Sector Key West commanded by Captain Scott A. Buschman are located in my Congressional district. As such, ensuring that the brave Coast Guard men and women have the tools they need to effectively patrol our coasts is of utmost concern.
I know that with this important mission, my constituents would not be pleased to hear of the lack of state-of-the-art equipment that the Coast Guard has been using to accomplish its goals.
Just to highlight the nature of our aging Coast Guard fleet, I can point to the oldest cutter still active. The Storis, still serving today in Alaska, was commissioned before the United States entry into World War II. A ship over 65 years old should not be tasked with protecting against the modem threats that face this great Nation.
Compare this to an April 18th article in the St. Petersburg Times where Drug Enforcement Agency officials are quoted as ``scratching their heads over how to combat the latest innovation in drug smuggling: radar-dodging semisubmersible vessels packed with tons of cocaine.'' Determined drug smugglers are using very sophisticated ships and technologies in this cat-and-mouse game and it will become increasingly difficult to prevent their illegal activities if we are not able to modernize our fleet as well.
Fortunately, a vital portion of this bill is dedicated to the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System. This is a critical program to modernize and replace the Coast Guard's aging ships and aircraft. The Deepwater Program is the largest acquisition in the history of the Coast Guard and any delay in the passage of this bill would have a serious and negative impact on the security of South Florida and our Nation.
We can all agree that these brave men and women deserve the fundamental resources they need. Certainly, without adequate funding the Coast Guard will not be equipped to accomplish their mission.
Coast Guard Sector Miami is scheduled to receive the first six Fast Response Cutters in addition to three ISLAND Class patrol boats. As well, Coast Guard Sector Key West is scheduled for delivery of the second six Fast Response Cutters in addition to one ISLAND Class patrol boat. I applaud these efforts and look forward to the continuation of the Deepwater Program.
Though this bill is by no means perfect, the urgency of modernizing our fleet and putting these ships in the water and these aircraft in the skies cannot be understated.
I urge all Members to recognize the crucial need to protect our Nation by strengthening the United States' oldest continuous seagoing service, the United States Coast Guard.
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