Key Senate panel approves bill to continue funding new Coast

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According to officials in U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) Office, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved a Coast Guard spending plan Thursday that would set aside $4 billion over the next two years for the Coast Guard to continue building new ships and aircrafts.

This measure, sponsored by Sen. Nelson, would provide the funding needed to continue construction of nearly two dozen new Coast Guard cutters being built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City.

Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the Coast Guard, announced last October that the Panama City shipbuilder had been awarded a $10.5 billion contract to build the new Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters.

At a cost of around $484 million per ship, the contract was the largest the Coast Guard has ever awarded in its 227-year history and could bring 2,000 new jobs to the area.

“Replacing the Coast Guard’s aging cutters, many of which were built before man walked on the moon, has been a top priority,” Nelson said. “These ships are vital for search and rescue and law enforcement missions, and it’s imperative for both the country and the local economy that work stays on track.”

The spending plan approved today authorized a total of $18.9 billion for Coast Guard operations and acquisitions in 2018 and 2019.

In addition to funding construction of the new cutters, the measure also included a provision sought by Nelson that directs the Secretary of Commerce to develop a plan for building a new facility in St. Petersburg, Florida that will serve as home port for a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel.

Florida, despite having the second longest coastline in the U.S., currently has no NOAA research vessels based in the state.

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