COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 15, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Terry). Pursuant to House Resolution 440 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 889.
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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and for all his expertise, his help, and his mentoring on these and other transportation issues for so long. I thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) for his leadership on the subcommittee, and of course, the chairman, the gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young), on the full committee.
Mr. Chairman, I agree with the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) when he said this is a committee that is working well together. The collegiality, the input that is provided from our side is greatly appreciated, and the mutual respect is evident. So we thank the Chair of both the subcommittee and the full committee for that.
Mr. Chairman, I have never been more proud of the men and women that serve in the United States Coast Guard than in recent weeks. What we have seen are valiant men and women stepping up to the plate and saving thousands of Americans from the destructive flood waters brought by Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard, whose motto is ``Semper Paratus,'' always ready, was prepared and ready to respond to this storm. Before levees ever broke, the Coast Guard was flying additional helicopters and extra air crews to the gulf region. Once the storm hit, their air crews and boat crews were operating 24 hours a day to save their fellow citizens.
The best decision that the President has made in the past 2 weeks was to place Vice Admiral Thad Allen in charge of the emergency response to the Katrina disaster. To the Coast Guard, being prepared to respond to a disaster is not just a paper exercise to sit on a shelf when the big one hits. Being prepared is something they do every day. They develop relationships with State and local government officials. They know who in the private sector can help provide resources quickly to respond, and they make decisions quickly so they can implement an effective response.
What we know to date of Katrina is that the Coast Guard has saved over 12,000 lives with their air resources and over 11,000 lives were saved by boats and other surface resources. They evacuated over 9,000 people to hospitals. When the storm passed, they remained on the scene helping to clean up the mess and protect the environment. In New Orleans, they are coordinating the cleanup of 15 significant oil spills. The Coast Guard is helping to coordinate the removal of sunken ships and barges.
Mr. Chairman, the Coast Guard has responded with all of the resources at their command to this disaster. It is time for the House of Representatives to respond to the Coast Guard by ensuring they have the resources they need to carry out their missions in the coming year and to continue to help American citizens, whether it is a disaster on the scale of Katrina or in a boating accident, to which they respond thousands of times.
H.R. 889 authorizes a total of $8.7 billion for the Coast Guard in the coming fiscal year. It includes $5.6 billion for operating expenses and almost $2 billion for acquisition, construction, and improvement. Funding for the Integrated Deepwater System is increased above the President's request to make sure this vital system stays on schedule.
I want to thank Chairman Young and Subcommittee Chairman LOBIONDO for including my request for $39 million to establish an additional helicopter interdiction tactical squadron, or HITRON, on the west coast. Currently, the Coast Guard operates only one HITRON squadron out of Jacksonville, Florida. We need another on the west coast to protect the eastern Pacific Ocean and interdict vessels attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States. The east coast squadron has interdicted over $6 billion in drugs to date, and I think we can do even more on the west coast.
So I thank the Chair for working on this bill so cooperatively. I thank the Coast Guard for not only responding to Katrina but for the work they do every day in all of our districts, whether it is search and rescue, cleaning up oil spills, interdicting drugs, or enforcing our fishery laws.
Mr. Chairman, I hope every one of my colleagues votes for this bill.
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