Washington – Senate appropriators for the first time on Thursday approved federal funding for efforts to build a Coast Guard museum on New London’s waterfront.
Although the money, $5 million, is a small fraction of the projected $100 million cost of the museum, retired Coast Guard Capt. Wes Pulver, head of the National Coast Guard Museum Association, called it a breakthrough.
“It’s great news because now all or our elements are finally coming together,” he said. The appropriation still must make it through the full Senate and the U.S. House, but approval by the Senate appropriators was a critical step.
Pulver said he is hoping for a total of $30 million in federal funding for the museum. The federal money would be used for initial appraisal, cataloguing and organizing of the existing collection of artifacts.
The state of Connecticut already has committed $20 million to build a pedestrian bridge from downtown New London to the museum, the waterfront and train station.
In addition the city of New London donated land for the museum in 2014.
The rest of the money needed for the project, about $50 million, would come from private donations. Pulver said about $7.5 million of that already has been raised.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the armed services that does not have a national museum devoted to it, the museum’s organizers say.
The $5 million in federal funding for the project was secured by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and was included in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security spending bill. The Coast Guard is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.
“I’ve been fighting tooth-and-nail alongside Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Courtney to allow for federal funding for the museum,” Murphy said. “As soon as we got the green light to pursue funding, I worked hard on the Appropriations Committee to make it happen.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, worked to get authorization for the museum in the Coast Guard Authorization Act that has been signed into law.
The law allows the U.S. Coast Guard to use federal funds to support the construction and installation of exhibits and displays for the museum.
“The federal funding approved in committee today moves the opening of this landmark museum one large step closer to reality,” Blumenthal said. “It is long overdue that the federal government support the work that New London has done to honor the Coast Guard’s distinguished service to our nation.”
The appropriations committee also addressed another issue that Blumenthal and Murphy have been trying to block – efforts to move the Coast Guard Band from New London to Washington, D.C.
The spending bill contains a provision that would bar the move.
“Moving the Coast Guard Band from New London to Washington would be ill-informed and ill-advised,” Blumenthal said. “Residing in our state for nearly a century, the band is a critical cultural centerpiece of Connecticut.
The U.S. House of Representatives has not begun work on its Homeland Security spending bill.