Stevens backs measure to keep Coast Guard traditional role

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Ted Stevens won approval of a measure Thursday aimed at protecting traditional functions of the Coast Guard after it's transferred into a new Department of Homeland Security.

Stevens brought up the issue Wednesday as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee began drafting a Homeland Security bill. Because of several objections to his amendment, he modified his measure overnight.

The measure acknowledges the Coast Guard's prime mission is security in times of war. But during peacetime, the measure would protect traditional roles such as search-and-rescue and fisheries enforcement by keeping the Coast Guard intact and requiring the administration to obtain permission first if it wanted to use agency assets for time-limited homeland security duties.

Critics argued the measure would tie the hands of the new Secretary of Homeland Security.

But Stevens' co-sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks shifted much of the Coast Guard's attention to port security. Coastal states cannot afford to have duties such as search-and-rescue diminished, she said.

The U.S. House was also preparing to begin floor debate on its Homeland Security bill. It also includes a provision to protect the Coast Guard's traditional roles.

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