News Releases

Murray Commissions Coast Guard Cutter in Port Angeles

Aug 09 2002

Addresses the Need for the Coast Guard to Respond to Both Homeland Security and Traditional Missions

(PORT ANGELES, WA) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) delivered the keynote address at the commissioning ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter WAHOO, an 87-foot patrol boat for which Murray secured federal funding.

Murray spoke about the need to ensure the Coast Guard can meet its new Homeland Security missions without undermining its traditional missions.

As the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Murray is responsible for the bill that funds all Coast Guard operations.

Last year, she helped provide an increase of more than $600 million for operations, pay, benefits and modernization.

This year Murray's bill provides an historic 20 percent increase in the Coast Guard's operating budget, and another historic 14 percent increase in the acquisitions budget.

The WAHOO's primary missions are search and rescue, law enforcement and Homeland Security.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Thank you Admiral Brown, Commander Peterson, Senior Chief Johnson, Chairman Sullivan, and members of the crew.

I'm proud to join you today as we commission the Coast Guard Cutter Wahoo. I know that while some of the crew members are from this area -- others are not.So on behalf of the people of Washington State, I want to welcome you to a community that truly values the Coast Guard and the missions you perform every day. I know that many of you have made sacrifices to serve your country.

We appreciate your service and your commitment in these challenging times.

If I had to pick just one word to describe the entire Coast Guard and its 35,000 active duty members, I would pick the word Responsive." Because when a fishing boat gets into trouble on the seas, the Coast Guard responds. When an oil spill threatens our natural environment, the Coast Guard responds. And when terrorists attacked our nation on September 11th, the Coast Guard responded – and responded admirably.

Immediately, you worked to secure our shores and to protect our people.

Since September 11th, the Coast Guard has shifted resources from traditional missions to homeland defense. That's an appropriate response, but it comes at a cost. Unfortunately, it means the Coast Guard is spending less time interdicting drugs and illegal migrants, enforcing fishery and marine safety laws, and protecting our marine environment.

But as the need for security has grown, the traditional missions haven't disappeared.

We still need the Coast Guard to keep drugs and illegal migrants off our shores, to protect our environment, to safeguard our maritime missions throughout our waters, and to protect the lives of our fisherman and the integrity of our fishing grounds.

All of these missions speak to the quality of our daily life as a coastal state. And all of these missions speak to the capabilities of cutters like the Wahoo.

Patrol Boats, like those of the Marine Protector Class, have the capability to execute so many different Coast Guard missions. These boats and their crews are about as responsive as we can get – able to shift their focus and their mission on the turn of dime.

In the United States Senate, I'm working to make sure you have the tools and resources to respond to every mission.

As the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I'm responsible for the bill that funds all Coast Guard operations. Last year, I helped provide an increase of more than $600 million for operations, pay, benefits and modernization.

This year, I'm trying to make even more progress.Just two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved my Transportation Bill for fiscal year 2003.It provides an historic 20 percent increase in the Coast Guard's operating budget, and another historic 14 percent increase in the acquisitions budget.

So I'm extremely proud, in my first full year as Chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee, to provide the kind of funding boost that the Coast Guard so richly deserves. These record increases recognize that if we're going to expand the Coast Guard's mission, we have to expand its funding.

With these additional funds, I hope and expect that we will see both a continued effort in Homeland Defense, and a renewed effort to get the Coast Guard's traditional missions back to where they were before September 11th. One critical need is for expanded Search and Rescue coverage here in Puget Sound and throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca. While vessel traffic throughout our region, especially ferry traffic, has grown in recent decades, the number of available Coast Guard assets have not kept pace.

Last year -- well before September 11th -- the Coast Guard presented me with a plan to transfer vessels and crew from other stations to Port Angeles to improve Search and Rescue coverage from West of Port Angeles to East of Port Townsend.

After many discussions with the former Commandant Loy, current Commandant Collins, and many others, I'm pleased to report that instead of transferring assets from other stations within the 13th District, we are going to add brand new assets to this district.

Over the next few months, five new vessels will be arriving at Port Angeles -- including two new 87-foot patrol boats.

Today, we are celebrating the arrival of the first of these boats.

In addition, the 110-foot patrol boat, the Cuttyhunk, which is already here for aviation training, will expand its mission to include Search and Rescue. Together, these changes will enable the Coast Guard to convert Port Angeles into a full 24-hour boat station that will be ready to protect our citizens at all times and in all weather conditions.

I'm also pleased to announce that the Coast Guard is preparing to locate another new 87-foot patrol boat at Bellingham.While the money for that boat has not yet been signed into law, I can assure you that the money is on the way. I'm proud to tell you that in the Senate, we're actually appropriating funds for additional patrol boats even faster than the Coast Guard is requesting them.

Today's commissioning is just the start of an effort to improve safety and security throughout the Puget Sound.

Before I close, I want to mention one other thing to all of the Coast Guard members here today. Some months ago, I read with a report by Captain Bill Peterson about a series of incidents in which members of the Port Angeles Coast Guard community were subject to racial harassment by an ignorant few. I want every one of you to know that the people of Port Angeles and the people of Washington State treasure your presence and your service here in our community. We do not, and we will not, tolerate racial harassment against anyone, period.

We want you to know that your service here allows us to enjoy the quality of life that Washington state residents hold so dear.

So I want to end this speech where I began – by welcoming the crew of the Wahoo to the Port Angeles Community. Your efforts are central to our continued safety and prosperity, and we're grateful to have such a responsive team protecting us.