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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DICKS. I thank my good friend from Alaska for yielding, and I thank the gentleman for raising this important issue.

The dramatic reduction in the Arctic sea ice that is happening at the North Pole is leading to substantial growth in activity in the Arctic region.

The Coast Guard in the High Latitude Study determined that it needs a minimum of three heavy and three medium icebreakers to meet its statutory mission. This bill includes funding to start the design phase of a new heavy icebreaker; however, it will not enter service until 2020 at the earliest. Until then, there will be only one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, and one medium icebreaker in operation. This is clearly not enough for the Coast Guard to accomplish its mission. And given the age of the Polar Star, which entered service in the 1970s, the possibility of a breakdown or extended maintenance period is significant, which would leave us without any serviceable heavy icebreaker at all.

As my friend has noted, the Polar Sea, the Coast Guard's second heavy icebreaker, has been decommissioned and is awaiting the final orders to scrap it. Given our rapidly growing need in the polar region, I worry that the Coast Guard is not considering other options for the Polar Sea.

Personally, I think a compelling case can be made for directing the Coast Guard to make the investment and put it back into service. But, at the very least, the Coast Guard needs to take time to review alternatives. In my judgment, it would be a shame to scrap such a potentially useful asset when there is so much evidence before us that we need more immediate icebreaking capacity.

My friend from Alaska has noted that he and I had been considering working on language that would direct the Coast Guard to consider alternatives but that such an amendment would be subject to a point of order.

I am glad the gentleman will be able to work on the issue on a bill pending before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I want to indicate to him that I share his commitment to ensuring that the Nation's icebreaking needs are met and will continue to work with him to ensure that the Coast Guard considers all available options for the Polar Sea.


Mr. DICKS. I would just like to associate myself with the gentleman's remarks. I feel these programs are very important and that there have been major cuts made in the last 2 years, as I understand it, and that this would just be another major cut on top of this.

To my friend from Georgia, austerity isn't helping England, it isn't helping France, it isn't helping Greece, and it's not going to help the United States. We need the recovery here at home. That's what we need--not mindless cutting and slashing of the budget that will throw people out of work and not create jobs for the American people.

Austerity has failed. I think it's time for the majority to wake up and recognize that.


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