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Hearing of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee - Oversight of the President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Requests for Coast Guard and NOAA


Location: Washington, DC

Good Morning.

Welcome Admiral Robert Papp, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and,

Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Both the Coast Guard and the NOAA perform vital services for our nation.

The 41,000 men and women in the U.S. Coast Guard carry out a wide array of civil and military responsibilities which touch on every aspect of the U.S. maritime sector.

They protect the nation's maritime economy and environment, defend our maritime borders, safeguard our ports, and save those in peril on the sea.

Last year, the Coast Guard responded to some 20,000 search and rescue cases nationwide and saved more than 3,500 lives.

They saved millions of dollars in property, stopped thousands of undocumented migrants from illegally entering the country, and seized hundreds of tons of drugs.

The Coast Guard also deploys forces in support of our troops overseas, conducts humanitarian missions, and leads the response to pollution incidents.

Perhaps nowhere is their importance better known than in my home state, Alaska, where our economy is based on the fishing industry, the safe transportation of oil and other maritime commerce, and recreational boating.

We're proud to be home to the nation's largest Coast Guard base in Kodiak, and with cutters, air stations, small boat stations and many dedicated and talented guardsmen and women throughout the state.

Last year, the Coast Guard's operation Arctic Shield was an unprecedented deployment of personnel, cutters, and aircraft above the Arctic Circle to respond to the increased shipping and energy activity in that fast-changing environment.

To honor the service and sacrifice of its men and women, Congress should ensure the Coast Guard has the tools they need to do all we ask of them.

While our nation struggles with finding a responsible balance of fiscal restraint with a budget that meets our needs and responsibilities, I am quite concerned about the nearly billion-dollar reduction proposed for the Coast Guard in FY 14.

Last year, we passed an authorization bill for the Coast Guard that authorized over $700 million more in discretionary funding than the President's request would provide. The Act's funding level represented a strong consensus of support in both Houses of Congress for the Coast Guard and the need to fund the essential missions they perform.

I am worried about what lowered funding would mean not only for our readiness today, but with significant cuts slated for acquisitions, what that means for our preparedness for future activity, including the need to replace our polar class icebreakers.

I look forward to discussing this with Admiral Papp today.

NOAA also plays a vital role for our nation and I welcome Dr. Sullivan to today's hearing.

NOAA's accurate observations and forecasts are essential to the nation's weather-dependent industries like agriculture, aviation and shipping.

For these sectors, weather forecasts mean more than just planning a picnic -- economic vitality, critical business decisions and, indeed, lives depend on their accuracy.

I commend NOAA for its response to the increasing incidents of severe weather our nation has experienced.

The accurate forecasts of the severity and course of hurricane Sandy last year gave advance warning which saved lives and property from that devastating superstorm.

And in the wake of the storm, NOAA's hydrographic survey vessels immediately went to work to ensure that shipping channels impacted by the storm remained clear and open to bring in needed supplies and restore commerce along the Atlantic seaboard.

Our nation's fishermen also depend on NOAA's assessment of fish stock status to ensure their harvest which drives the economy of so many coastal communities nationwide, is sustainable.

And, as I always like to brag -- as producer of over half the nation's seafood, this is critical for Alaska.

Also critical is work on the timely review and permitting of oil and gas activities to ensure its compatibly with marine mammal populations upon which Alaska Native people depend as a traditional source of nutrition.

I'm pleased the Administration has proposed a modest increase for NOAA in FY 14.

Most is to maintain its vital satellite tracking capabilities but also other for ocean observations, fish stock assessments, and basic research into climate and marine debris, among other programs.

But I share concerns about other programs which are being cut to afford these, and the impact of furloughs of NOAA personnel on maintaining essential services.

I look forward to today's discussion with Dr. Sullivan.

Before we turn to the witnesses, let me ask Ranking Member Rubio if he would like to make an opening statement.

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