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Public Statements

Conference Report on H.R. 2443, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2443, COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - July 21, 2004)

Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 730, I call up the conference report on the bill (H.R. 2443) to authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2004, to amend various laws administered by the Coast Guard, and for other purposes.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time of the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar).

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Simpson). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Alaska (Chairman Young) for his remarks, and certainly the subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo), and the ranking member from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar). I would say to the gentleman from Alaska, maybe we should ask unanimous consent to substitute the highway bill for this conference report!

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with Chairman Young to strongly support the conference report for H.R. 2443, the Coast Guard Authorization and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004.

This legislation is the culmination of our work in this Congress in examining the Coast Guard missions, with particular emphasis on the funding for the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 and their new homeland security missions.

The bill authorizes over $8.2 billion for Coast Guard operations for fiscal year 2005. We believe this will be sufficient funding for the Coast Guard to carry out their many missions, including homeland security, search and rescue, marine safety, drug and migrant interdiction and law enforcement, which includes $5.4 billion for Coast Guard operating expenses, $1.5 billion for acquisition and construction projects, $24.2 million for research and development, and $19.65 million for alteration of bridges.

In particular, I am pleased that the conferees recommended that the Coast Guard should lease additional helicopters to establish a helicopter interdiction tactical squadron, HITRON, armored on the West Coast. Since their establishment in Jacksonville, Florida, the East Coast HITRON squadron has stopped over $4 billion in illegal drugs from entering the United States. Deployment of a HITRON squadron on the West Coast will help stem the flow of illegal narcotics through the eastern Pacific Ocean.

There is sufficient authorized funding in this bill for the Coast Guard to lease the helicopters required for this deployment. If one were to look at this using a cost-benefit analysis, the $39 million we spend to lease and deploy an armored HITRON squadron on the West Coast will stop drugs valued at more than 20 times that amount.

It is my strong view that the Coast Guard must increase existing airborne use of force assets for port security and drug interdiction. The lease option for these aircraft is already in place. The lease provides antiterrorist and antidrug coverage for the next 3 to 5 years while providing flexibility for the Coast Guard to engage in a competition to select a permanent multimission Cutter helicopter to meet the post-9/11 challenge. When these multimission helicopters are deployed, the HITRON helicopters can be returned to the manufacturer at the option of the Coast Guard.

We make a number of other substantive changes in the law, including providing critical skill training bonuses for enlisted members, providing legal authority to build new housing for Coast Guard and military personnel, extending the International Safety Management Code to all vessels operating in U.S. waters, and requiring electronic charts on ships to help prevent accidents such as the 1989 accident of the Exxon Valdez when they lost their way in Prince William Sound in Alaska. We also extend the oil spill response plans to cargo ships entering U.S. ports, not just tankers.

I thank the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young); the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo); and the ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) for their bipartisan effort to put the bill together.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly urge my colleagues to support the passage of the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Loretta Sanchez).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 7 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Stupak).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Israel).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 ½ minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Ruppersberger).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler).

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the
ranking member of the full committee.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

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