by Senate Appropriations Committee
Several national items benefit Alaska
June 22, 2004
At the request of Senators Stevens and Murkowski, $10 million has been provided for the Department of Homeland Security's use of the National Weather Service (NWS) radio system as the foundation for the Homeland Security Advisory System. The Committee has been advised that only 15 percent of Americans to have access to NWS radio broadcasts and have provided this funding for the distribution of NWS radios to schools throughout the country on a priority basis.
"Our country has a network of alert systems that does not effectively cover everyone," said Stevens. "We need to have a system that notifies people about all emergencies, not just one type or another. To use existing technology is well meaning, but only if everyone has access to it."
As the number one cargo airport in the country (in terms of cargo landed) the Anchorage International Airport will benefit from $15 million nationwide for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to continue operation testing and evaluation of commercial off-the-shelf explosives detection technologies that will detect containerized material-specific cargo threats as part of the Air Cargo Inspection pilot program. This will allow for the expansion of the program to airports experiencing extreme environmental conditions to ensure equipment durability. "Anchorage is the top-ranked cargo airport in North America," said Stevens. "This program will ensure the continued flow of cargo through the United States and will protect us from future terrorist attacks."
Senator Stevens ensured the inclusion of $5 million to expand the Cyber Crime Center within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These funds will allow for the establishment of additional Computer Forensic Laboratories to expand ICE's ability to investigate child and other internet-related crimes.
The bill also provides $700 million for Firefighter Assistance Grants nationwide; many Alaska fire departments have received firefighting grants in recent years. The Department of Homeland Security to continue its direct funding to fire departments, the peer review process for determining funding awards, and the practice of allowing the Alaska Village Initiatives to apply for grants on behalf of Alaska communities. According to the State Fire Marshal's Office, 75 percent of all fire fatalities in Alaska occur in rural areas, most without any fire response capabilities.
The report again includes language encouraging the Coast Guard to continue existing cooperative agreements and partnerships with organizations that provide marine vessel safety training and cold water immersion education and outreach programs. The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) benefits from this initiative. AMSEA has trained over 600 instructors and 200 teachers to provide cold water safety education to more than 100,000 school children, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters and agency personnel.
In addition to its maritime safety education programs, the Coast Guard is directed to work with the National Academy of Science to conduct a comprehensive study of the role of Coast Guard icebreakers in supporting the United States operations in the Antarctic and the Arctic. The study is due to the Congress in September of 2005.
Additionally, the Coast Guard will receive $5 million above the President's budget request to be used to augment research activities in support of traditional Coast Guard mission program. These programs include marine environmental protection, living marine resources, search and rescue, aids to navigation, marine safety, and fisheries enforcement. The bill also directs the Coast Guard to coordinate research and development activities with the under Secretary for Science and Technology. These activities are particularly important to Alaska which has half of the coastline of the United States, prodigious marine life, and many remote fisheries management challenges.
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