Homeland Security bill would include $50 million for Coast Guard Museum in New London
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., announced this week he is making a hard push for Congressional approval of a $50 million boost to the fundraising effort for construction of a National Coast Guard Museum in New London.
Murphy, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, included the $50 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 Homeland Security bill, which provides discretionary funding of $71 .7 billion.
It would mark the first time federal money would be directed toward construction of the museum, as it is exempt from previous restrictions, Murphy’s office said. Past work by the local congressional delegation, including Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, cleared a path for use of federal funding on design and engineering elements of the estimated $150 million museum project.
There has been $20 million in federal funds appropriated to the museum in prior years to preserve artifacts, and design, fabricate and install exhibits.
The new Homeland Security bill also includes $6 million for improvements to New London’s City Pier to accommodate the barque Eagle, which is expected to dock adjacent to the future Coast Guard Museum along the city’s waterfront. The museum would be located behind Union Station.
Murphy, in an op-ed this week in The Day, highlighted the importance of museum and need to jumpstart funding for construction.
“It makes no sense that the Coast Guard is the only historic branch of the armed services with no national museum. The other armed services have over 77 museums between them,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he views the museum as an opportunity for new educational experiences for children and touted its potential to bring more visitors to southeastern Connecticut, create jobs and funnel upwards of $20 million a year into the region’s economy.
Museum officials have said in the past a large federal commitment to the museum was likely to open the doors to more private donations. Fundraising for the museum began in 2014, around the time New London, under former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, donated a 0.37-acre site to the Coast Guard to accommodate the future museum.
Retired USCG Capt. Wes Pulver, president of the National Coast Guard Museum Association, welcomed the news of a large federal investment. The $50 million would inch the museum association closer to its $150 million fundraising goal.
The museum association reports $79 million in fundraising to date.
"Our Connecticut Delegation, led by Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, Representative DeLauro, and Representative Courtney have been committed to working with their peers in Washington to secure additional authorities and resources in support of a premier National Museum in southeastern Connecticut,” Pulver said in a statement. “When coupled with previously committed Federal, State, and private funding from across our country, we are well postured to begin Construction Phase I in 2022."
The first phase of the project is expected to include bulkheading portions of the waterfront in anticipation of construction. The project remains in the permitting phase.
The museum association said the $50 million would be in addition to the $29 million raised in private donation towards construction of the $100 million museum. The association estimates $30 million will be needed for exhibits and furnishing, of which $20 million is already committed in federal funds.
The state of Connecticut has committed $20 million toward construction of a pedestrian bridge to ferry people over Water Street and the train tracks to the museum and city’s waterfront.
Blumenthal called it “absolutely shameful and inexplicable” that there is no museum to commemorate and celebrate the Coast Guard.
“It’s more than just a museum. It’s a tribute to a national treasure, our Coast Guard,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said the passage of the spending bill will not come without obstacles but work is ongoing behind the scenes to persuade colleagues in Congress.
“Our task is to lay the groundwork for a vote on the floor. It’s really been a solid team effort,” Blumenthal said.
Courtney called the inclusion of $50 million in the spending proposal a "breakthrough step towards making this long-overdue museum a reality in New London."
"There are several steps left to go, but I will be strongly supporting this effort as the House and Senate start working on a final budget agreement for 2022,” Courtney said.
With government funding set to expire on Dec. 3, Congress needs to reach an agreement on Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills before then or pass a continuing resolution for Fiscal Year 2021. A continuing resolution would not include the new funding.