Rep. Don Young hopes to accomplish four things before the 109th Congress completes its work in 50 days: reauthorize funds for the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and push through bills for water projects and railroad funding.
The first three goals are essential to Alaska’s interests, Young said, with fisheries protections tied to Coast Guard and Corps projects. The reauthorization of funds for the Water Resources Development Act will keep the Corps work flowing on ecosystem restoration, shoreline protection and water access studies.
“We must continue to have them in the front to make sure we can accomplish those things we need in infrastructure,” Young said. “We have a serious problem in this country with the delivery of water and not losing of water.”
The railroad issue mainly affects the Lower 48, Young said, but he pointed out that attention paid to the issue could have a further-reaching impact in the future.
“It’s finally got through to a lot of people that the rail system in this country needs to be improved upon and expanded. One way we can move more freight and more people much quicker than on the highway.”
Young also took time to address his continued support for the war in Iraq and talk about the war’s challenges.
“I am convinced in my mind, as in the president’s mind, that if we had not done what we had done, we would have had World War III in the Mideast,” he said.
Young did acknowledge the burden the war has placed on the armed services. National Guard members have served three tours of duty in Iraq because the volunteer army is not large enough to maintain operations, and Guard members account for 48 percent of the troops in Iraq.
Young said the draft may be reinstated again because of low military recruitment, explaining that a lack of commitment to veterans has soured the option of service for would-be recruits.
“How do we build our standing Army? We have to start recognizing a responsibility to our vets,” he said. “When I was in the service, I was committed: if I served 20 years, I got full medical and retirement until I was dead ... we’ve slowly eroded that. How does that affect the younger person who’s being asked to go into the Army?”
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