House passes Coast Guard bill with new housing, travel benefits

A U.S. Coast Guard boat during a training drill A U.S. Coast Guard boat during a training drill Elaine Thompson/AP

The House on Wednesday passed a Coast Guard authorization bill that would provide enhanced housing and benefits for current service members.

The 2012 Coast Guard Authorization Act, allots the service $8.6 billion in fiscal 2013 and $8.7 billion in fiscal 2014 respectively. The measure -- introduced by Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. and John Mica, R-Fla,, in 2011, passed the Senate in September. The revised bill will now go back to the Senate for a vote.   

The bill provides service members and dependents revised housing and family benefits that will bring the Coast Guard into “greater parity” with the rest of the military, according to a statement from its sponsors.  LoBiondo said in the statement that some of the new provisions include expanded child care services, improved housing, and enhanced retention and medical travel reimbursement. 

“While the Coast Guard has been hesitant to dedicate the necessary resources, it remains unacceptable that our service men and women and their families are forced to live in outdated, substandard and sometimes nearly dilapidated housing,” LoBiondo said. He added that the bill will require the service to report on housing conditions at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.

The legislation also includes components from the 2011 Piracy Suppression Act, also submitted by LoBiondo in 2011.  The bill will now allow for armed security forces on U.S. flagged vessels carrying federal government cargo, and will also further expand training programs to help prepare mariners for pirate attacks.

“The Coast Guard is our nation’s first line of defense for maritime safety and security,” Mica said in a statement. “Today’s bill provides the Coast Guard with the resources to continue to improve the ships, aircraft and communications systems they need to do their jobs.”

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