The impact on the Pacific Northwest is also alarming. In the Thirteenth Coast Guard District (Seattle), drug interdiction efforts were reduced 67 percent. Marine environmental protection was down 87 percent, and fisheries enforcement declined 10 percent. In the waters off Alaska, where many Washington state fishermen work, fisheries enforcement is down by more than one-fifth.
Sen. Patty Murray, a strong supporter of the Coast Guard, raised these concerns with the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Tom Collins, at a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier today.
Adm. Collins responded to Murray’s questioning that “we’re going to close those gaps that we had, we’re going to get near pre-9/11 levels.” But the Commandant added that with more resources the Coast Guard could “get even more outcome.”
When Congress drafted the Homeland Security Act which transferred the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security, many Senators, including Murray and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) were concerned about the impact on traditional Coast Guard missions. In the 2003 Appropriations bill, Murray included language requiring that the Coast Guard submit quarterly reports on its overall mission operations to help quantify the impact of the important new homeland security missions on more traditional missions.
Murray continues to be a strong advocate for the Coast Guard. Last year, Murray was proud to champion a historic funding increase for the service.
Murray said, “I know I speak for many colleagues when I say that we never cease to be impressed by the accomplishments of our men and women in the U.S. Coat Guard. Obviously we must allocate resources to address risk. But I am deeply concerned that some of the critical missions that we are asking the Coast Guard to do are not taking place and I think the Appropriations Committee needs to make sure that the Coast Guard has the resources to do the Homeland Security jobs as well as all the other missions.”
Murray continued, “If this agency’s budget continues to grow by 20 percent in just two years, Congress has a right to expect that this agency will get back to its other core missions of interdicting drugs, protecting our fishing grounds and our fishermen, and protecting our environment.”
According to the Coast Guard’s most recent report, (April 2002 – March 2003) the number of hours committed to traditional Coast Guard missions has declined.
|Mission||Change in Number
of Resource Hours
|Marine Environmental Protection||64% decrease|
|Drug Interdiction||42% decrease|
|Marine Safety||43% decrease|
|Fisheries Enforcement||33% decrease|
|Defense Readiness||217% increase|
|Ports, Waterways & Coastal Security||842% increase|
Source: U.S. Coast Guard Quarterly Abstract of Operations, April 15th, 2003
Office of Sen. Patty Murray