Senate bill would give DHS $97M above request

Fate of Coast Guard Loran program in question

The Senate began considering a fiscal 2010 spending bill today that would provide $97 million more for the Homeland Security Department than the Obama administration requested. The legislation also corresponds fairly closely to the measure the House approved June 24

One issue lawmakers are still debating is whether to approve the administration’s request to phase out the Coast Guard’s Long-Range Navigation (Loran) system. The House approved additional funding for the system, and some senators agree that it would be better to keep it running as a backup to the modern, satellite-based Global Positioning System.

White House officials put Loran on a list of proposed terminations, saying the move would save $36 million in 2010 and $190 million in the next five years. The Senate spending bill supports terminating the system in 2010. Meanwhile, the House's DHS appropriations bill and a separate Senate Coast Guard authorization bill reject the termination and call for maintaining and upgrading the system.

“In the event of a GPS outage, it is important to have a separate, ground-based navigation system in place,” said Craig Spence, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in a statement posted on the organization's Web site. “AOPA has long cautioned against decommissioning Loran before a backup is established.”

The bill the Senate is considering today includes $18 million to continue operating Loran until January 2010, with provisions to terminate it after then if the Coast Guard certifies that the system is no longer needed, according to a June 17 statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

However, it’s possible that senators might try to amend the bill on the floor. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has introduced a Coast Guard authorization bill that would maintain the Loran system until the Coast Guard makes the transition to more advanced technology.

Overall, the Senate bill would provide $42.9 billion in discretionary funding for DHS — about $302 million more than the House version.

About the Authors


Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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