Bill with $1B for icebreaker advances to Senate

Scientists watch from the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy as it cuts through multiyear sea ice in the Arctic Ocean on July 6, 2011. —Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen
The Coast Guard cutter Healy, a medium-weight icebreaker, cuts through multiyear ice in 2011. File photo: Kathryn Hansen/NASA

The Arctic is one step closer to having a new U.S. icebreaker.  The full Senate Appropriations committee this morning passed a bill that includes $1 billion for a heavy duty polar ship. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says the money would fully fund a goal she’s worked toward for years.

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“We’ve made (progress in) little bits and pieces,” she said just before the committee vote. “$8 million here and $3 million there, and that doesn’t buy you a porthole.”

The Homeland Security and Defense spending bills now go to the Senate floor. Murkowski issued a list of Alaska items in them. They include an extra $100 million to speed acquisition of F-35as, the new fighter jets that will be based at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks. The senator says the bills also have $22 million for upgrades at the Kodiak Coast Guard base, plus $10 million for state-run missile launch facilities, like the one on Kodiak Island and another in Maryland.

Murkowski says she added language directing the Coast Guard to consider homeporting more ships in Alaska. She told her colleagues that national security cutters, in particular, need to be closer to the Arctic.

“We have NSCs that are sitting in Alameda, California. So that’s the closest homeport that we have right now,” she said. “That is 2,200 miles away.”

That’s just the distance to to Kodiak, Murkowski said. That would be the halfway point on a mission to Point Barrow.