CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 889, COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2006
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Mr. LoBIONDO. I thank the chairman for yielding, and I would like to thank Chairman Young for his ongoing very strong support for the Coast Guard and their maritime missions.
H.R. 889, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, authorizes nearly $8.7 billion in funding for the Coast Guard in fiscal year 2006. This authorization includes funding to support each of the Coast Guard's important missions, including many that have been highlighted in response to the tragedy that occurred in the gulf region last year.
The Coast Guard is a unique entity within the Federal Government, as both a military service and a Federal agency with law enforcement abilities and wide regulatory responsibilities. The men and women of the Coast Guard carry out their missions every day to protect the safety and security of our Nation. Whether the mission involves saving thousands of lives, responding to oil spills, keeping our ports and waterways open, or boarding a suspicious vessel, the men and women of the Coast Guard work tirelessly.
However, we cannot allow the commitment that is being shown by the men and women of the Coast Guard to go on without a real commitment by this body to provide the service with the assets and resources necessary to carry out all of these missions that we have asked them to do. H.R. 889 will authorize the funding levels required to do just that.
H.R. 889 authorizes $1.6 billion for the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System, a critically important system. Every day our Coast Guard servicemembers must deal with the unfortunate reality that an aircraft or boat they command may lose power, spring a leak, or otherwise fail to operate. This is unacceptable. It puts the safety of our personnel and the success of their mission in real jeopardy. We must accelerate Deepwater to make replacement assets available now. I urge my colleagues to support funding levels in this bill and in the future to make this a reality.
H.R. 889 also includes important oil spill response and liability provisions originally included in the Delaware River Protection Act legislation that I introduced, along with Representatives Saxton, Castle, Andrews, and Schwartz, in the wake of the Athos I oil spill in the Delaware River. These provisions represent the first real effort in 15 years to strengthen our Federal oil spill prevention and response system. This bill will provide the Federal Government with the authorities that will enhance our capability to prevent and respond to future oil spills.
Once again, I would like to thank Chairman Young for his strong support, Ranking Member Oberstar, as well as subcommittee Ranking Member Filner for working with me to develop a strong bipartisan product. I would also like to thank our dedicated staff on both sides of the aisle for their work: John Rayfield, Eric Nagel, and Liz Megginson on the majority staff, and John Cullather on the minority staff, who did an outstanding job in helping us put this conference report together.
The bill takes a balanced approach to providing the resources and authorities necessary to support each of the Coast Guard's many and varied missions. Although the Coast Guard has received a great deal of attention for its port security mission, we must strive to protect the service's unique multi-mission character. We must maintain a Coast Guard with the ability to successfully accomplish each of its vital missions.
I would like to urge all my colleagues to support this important bill and continue to support the men and women of the Coast Guard who do such an exceptionally good job for the United States of America.
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