Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski announced Thursday morning that she has secured funding and language in the 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill that will see spending on Coast Guard and other military projects in Alaska.
One item directs $10-million to the Air Force to spend on the former Kodiak Launch Complex at Narrow Cape. The funding is to support continued operation at the state-owned Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska. The Missile Defense Agency recently announced interest in using the launch site to test its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor system.
But it was the Coast Guard that got the lions’ share of attention from Murkowski. She touted the billion-dollars earmarked for a new ice-breaker that was funded, as well funding for Offshore Patrol and Sentinel-Class boats, the latest cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet.
Two of the 154-foot Sentinel-Class Cutters are scheduled to be stationed in Ketchikan in 2017, while at least two Offshore Patrol Cutters are slated to be home-ported in Kodiak, along with potentially one, larger National Security Cutter.
“These, the NSC’s are top-of-the-line. They’re the best of the best. And they are amazing,” Murkowski said after the Appropriation Committee vote. “In terms of the capacity they can bring to very remote and very harsh environments. And if you want to talk remote and harsh, the arctic is your place.”
The senator made the case why the United States needs a National Security Cutter stationed in Alaska to respond more quickly to arctic issues.
“We have, we’ve got two National Security Cutters that are over in Charleston. We’ve got four that are sitting down in here in Alameda. Hawaii is going to get two. We’ve got the eighth that is undesignated right now and the ninth that is undesignated right now,” she said. “For a response to come to Alaska, our closest vessel is coming out of Alameda. To go from Alameda, somewhere down here, to Kodiak, the Coast Guard base here, is maybe a four-day transit. Then you have to go through the Unimak. You’ve got to go all the way up through the Bering Straits and get up to the top. Add another five-six days.”
There is also $22-million for upgrades to Coast Guard Base Kodiak to support future Offshore Patrol Cutter homeporting and ongoing National Security Cutter operations.