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Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Mr. President, I very much appreciate the comments of the Senator from Iowa. My expectation is that the Coast Guard study and report will include the consideration of the specific needs of individuals with disabilities with respect to their use of survival craft, and will not make any recommendations that could be considered discriminatory against people with disabilities, or require individuals with disabilities to perform actions which they may be unable to do as a result of their specific disability. The goal of the study and report should be an inclusive one which allows people with disabilities to participate fully in the underlying activity, and provides a full and equal opportunity for each person with a disability to utilize these survival craft in a safe manner, as necessary. I will continue to work with my colleague from Iowa and the Coast Guard on these issues and I will encourage the Coast Guard to complete their report within the 6 month period so that new requirements will take effect in a timely manner.

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Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Madam President, I rise today to celebrate the final passage of a reconciled Coast Guard authorization bill for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. This achievement is the culmination of several months of careful negotiation between the Senate and the House, and is a tribute to what can happen when we rise above trivial partisanship, roll up our sleeves, and reach across the aisle on behalf of the American people.

The United States Coast Guard is truly unique among the services and agencies of the Federal Government. As a branch of our Armed Forces, it defends the Nation in time of war, but it also functions as a Federal agency with law enforcement and regulatory authority in a number of areas critical to our national security, economic security, and environment. Today, the Coast Guard is charged with 11 statutory missions that include saving lives at sea; protecting our ports, waterways, and maritime infrastructure from terrorists; responding to natural disasters; interdicting drugs and migrants at sea; and protecting our marine environment.

Each and every day, we ask the 42,000 men and women of the Coast Guard to put their lives on the line to carry out these important missions. Over the past few years, we have seen the Coast Guard take the lead in responding to numerous crises like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the earthquake in Haiti, and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In all of these cases, the Coast Guard has met and exceeded our expectations. We have asked them to do more with less and they have responded. The least we can do is to make sure they have the tools essential to carrying out their missions successfully. With the passage of this year's Coast Guard reauthorization bill, I believe we're on our way towards meeting that responsibility.

This bipartisan bill authorizes additional funding and personnel levels for the Coast Guard over fiscal years 2013 and 2014, improving its ability to carry out its three overarching roles of maritime security, safety and stewardship successfully. The bill also makes a number of changes to the Coast Guard's major acquisitions authorities critical to the ongoing and needed recapitalization of its aging fleet. Additionally, the bill addresses America's increasing presence in a changing Arctic by ensuring that the Coast Guard maintains and strengthens its capability to conduct polar ice operations in support of its statutory missions and operational needs of the United States Navy. Importantly, the bill also gives the Coast Guard greater parity with its sister Armed Services by further aligning Coast Guard management and personnel authorities with statutory authorities of the Department of Defense to better support its service members and their families.

The bill's passage would not have been successful without the tireless efforts of many here in Congress. I first want to thank Senator BEGICH, who, after assuming the chairmanship of the Oceans Subcommittee at the beginning of this Congress, quickly went to work on drafting the Senate's version of the Coast Guard bill. His legislation, of which I was a proud cosponsor, served as a blueprint for the Senate's negotiations with the House.

I also want to thank my dear friend and ranking member of the Commerce Committee, Senator HUTCHISON. Her efforts were instrumental to moving the ball down the field. It is increasingly difficult to get consensus in this body, particularly for legislation that needs unanimity. Without her efforts to hammer out differences across the aisle, today's achievement would not have been possible. Senator HUTCHISON will be missed.

In recent weeks, much attention was given to the efforts to pass needed reauthorization for the Department of Defense and each of the Armed Services under it. It was a tough slog, but in the end it demonstrated what can be achieved when the Senate works as it should. In its own quiet way, the passage of this legislation for this essential service branch is a testament to that as well.

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