Sullivan Champions Alaska Priorities in 2022 Coast Guard Authorization
Bill Focuses on Arctic Capabilities, Improved Maritime Communications, Support for Coast Guardsmen & Families
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation (CST) Committee, and his committee colleagues voted this week to approve the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, reauthorizing the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Sen. Sullivan championed an increase in appropriation levels that will enable the Coast Guard to carry out vessel capitalization and infrastructure development, particularly in the Arctic and Alaska, and support its wide range of missions, including stopping the movement of drugs and illegal migrants, enforcing U.S. laws at sea, combatting illegal fishing, and protecting the nation’s borders. The authorization also provides significant support for Coast Guardsmen and their families through pay and benefits improvements, providing service members with greater peace of mind as they fulfill their duties to the country.
“The service and sacrifice of our brave Coast Guardsmen are just as important to our country as our other uniformed military members. My Commerce colleagues and I have crafted a bill that makes great strides in fulfilling our commitment to this branch of the U.S. military with the support, funding and attention the U.S. Coast Guard deserves,” said Sen. Sullivan. “Our authorization will ensure America’s Coast Guardsmen have the most advanced and robust fleet of vessels and shore-side infrastructure to continue successfully executing their wide array of critical missions in defense of our nation.”
Major authorizations in the 2022 Coast Guard Authorization Act include:
- $650 million dollars for the acquisition of a twelfth National Security Cutter.
- $650 million dollars for the continued acquisition of Offshore Patrol Cutters.
- $3.9 billion dollars over two years for shoreside infrastructure in support of Coast Guard operations and readiness.
- $841 million dollars for a third Polar Security Cutter.
- $20 million dollars to establish a program office to begin developing the program and requirements for an Arctic Security Cutter.
Arctic and Alaska Focus
“As the state with America’s only Arctic territory and the largest Coast Guard base in the country, Alaska is a critical focus of the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Sen. Sullivan. “With this authorization, we are no longer just discussing the Arctic theoretically—we are making real investments. Those investments include fully funding the third Polar Security Cutter and creating a program office to begin work on the next class of icebreakers, which we will need to deter our adversaries and secure America’s interests in the Arctic. Also important for our state, this legislation will improve the communication systems mariners rely on to stay safe and alert on the high seas—a key concern of Alaska fishermen in the wake of the Russian naval exercises off of our coastline in 2020.”
Sen. Sullivan authored a number of Alaska-focused provisions in the act, including language:
- Directing the Coast Guard to submit a report on the ability and a timeline to conduct a transit of the Northern Sea Route and periodic transits of the Northwest Passage. This provision is an excerpt from Sen. Sullivan’s Arctic Focus Act.
- Requiring the Coast Guard to achieve 98 percent operational availability of remote Alaska Rescue 21 communications systems no later than August 30, 2023. This provision will improve how the public, particularly the North Pacific maritime and fishing industry, is made aware of certain outages and activities.
- Authorizing the conveyance of 2.4 acres of waterfront property from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the City of Juneau for use in the Juneau Small Cruise Ship Infrastructure Master Plan.
- Requiring the Coast Guard to work with the Defense and State Departments, and the fishing community, to improve how U.S. mariners are notified of military exercises and activities within the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This provision comes in response to a dangerous encounter between Russian warships and Alaska fishermen in the U.S. EEZ in August 2020.
- Providing regulatory certainty for commercial fishing vessels from onerous, unenforced regulations.
- Allowing the use of Automatic Identification Systems to mark fishing equipment for two years or until the FCC promulgates a final rule to authorize a device to mark the equipment.
- Creating a civilian position to oversee and develop Alaska oil spill planning criteria, and requiring the commandant to develop training on the program for all personnel with duties that involve the program.
- Directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of removing limited indemnity provisions in Coast Guard oil spill response contracts in order to assess the ability of the United States to carry out oil spill clean-ups.
- Ensuring that oil spill response vessels, vessels of opportunity, and fishing vessels towing boom or fishing nets are not subject to misplaced requirements to receive towing endorsements, thus eliminating discrepancies in enforcement across Districts.
- Reauthorizing the fishing safety training grant program through 2025.
- Providing relief from onerous regulations for certain fishing vessels that also operate as tender vessels while the GAO conducts a study identifying an appropriate application of load line regulations.
- Requiring the Coast Guard to maintain at least one Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program in every Coast Guard District. The provision is an outgrowth of previous legislation that required the Coast Guard to report on the feasibility of creating a Coast Guard ROTC program.
- Requiring the secretary of homeland security to deny port access for vessels receiving negative certifications under the High Seas Drift Net Moratorium Protection Act, or that are registered with certain nations with reports under the same act—similar to parts of Sen. Sullivan’s FISH Act.
The 2022 Coast Guard Authorization Act also provides significant support for the health and well-being of Coast Guardsmen and their families. These provisions:
- Provide pay and certain allowances for members of the Coast Guard in the event of a government shutdown.
- Provide a discount at military child development centers (CDCs) for families with multiple children; require certain standards of every CDC; and establish a child care subsidy program to provide financial assistance to eligible providers.
- Ensure certain members of the Coast Guard are eligible for the military’s basic needs allowance.
- Better align the Coast Guard’s behavioral health policy with the DOD’s policies, an effort led by Sens. Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
- Require the Coast Guard to develop a strategy to improve the quality of life at remote installations that addresses housing, health care, and child care.
- Require the Coast Guard’s comptroller general to commence a study on housing access, cost, and associated challenges facing members of the Coast Guard.
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