President Biden’s flat budget request for the U.S. Coast Guard includes allocations for upgrades to a dozen USCG facilities as well as funding for necessary cutter programs.
The $52.2 billion net discretionary budget request for DHS in fiscal year 2022, which Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said would “provide DHS with the resources we need to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous,” allocates $597 million to fund the construction of the fourth Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and lead time materials for the fifth OPC. Also, $170 million would fund the Polar Security Cutter program management and lead time materials for the third Polar Security Cutter — investment intended to ensure “the security of national interests in the Polar Regions.”
DHS said that USCG facilities slated for upgrades are located on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii, and would benefit from the $274 million allocated for shore facility infrastructure.
“The Coast Guard is a vital component of the national security vision, and the agency supports the strategic priorities of enhancing border security, combating transnational criminal organizations, and defending the economic security of our $5.4 trillion Marine Transportation System,” DHS said in the budget document. “The FY 2022 President’s Budget is committed to maintaining readiness levels and the modernization of new, more capable assets.”
The Coast Guard budget request comes in at $13.1 billion, slightly more than the $13 billion enacted in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2020, the service saw nearly $12.2 billion in funding. Pay and personnel support for FY 2022 would see $4.7 billion in funding, mission support including enterprise management and environmental compliance and restoration would receive $405 million, and field operations are funded at $3.8 billion, including surface, air, and coastal and shore operations; cyber and intelligence operations; command, control, and communications; and contingencies, disasters, and emergent priorities.
Procurement, construction, and improvements would be funded at $1.6 billion, including vessels at a little over $1 billion, aircraft at $221 million, and shore facilities and aids to navigation at $279 million.
The nation’s only heavy icebreaker currently in operation, the Polar Star, would be sustained with a $15 million multi-year service life extension project intended to keep things running until the second icebreaker is built. Program management activities and an initial detail, design and construction contract award to recapitalize the Waterways Cutter fleet would receive $67 million.
Medium-range surveillance aircraft support, including installation of the Minotaur mission system, would be funded at $66 million, while continued modernization and sustainment of the Coast Guard’s rotary-wing fleet to extend the service life of MH-65 and MH-60 helicopters and begin transition to a single helicopter type would be funded at nearly $135 million. “These efforts are critical to maintaining existing vertical lift capability to align future recapitalization with Department of Defense Future Vertical Lift technologies in the early 2040s,” the budget notes.
Other acquisition programs would receive $93 million, including $18 million for C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and $21.5 million — a $2 million boost — for the cyber and enterprise mission platform. Research and development — including unmanned systems, Arctic operations, and automation — would receive $7.4 million.
IT and cybersecurity investments include just over $99 million to support the Coast Guard’s Technology Revolution Roadmap; “FY 2022 investments focus on five primary lines of effort: modernize C5I infrastructure, improve cutter connectivity, improve cyber readiness, transition to modern phone systems, and transition to modern software that provides mobility and leverages cloud technology,” the budget states. Additional funding would establish a third Cyber Protection Team to work with cyber specialists at critical ports of entry.
The Coast Guard accounts for 15 percent of the DHS budget, the third-highest funding share behind Customs and Border Protection at 18 percent and FEMA at 31 percent.
Budget decreases reflect slower hiring in recent years, the rescission of long lead time materials for a 12th National Security Cutter, and the removal from service older assets — including five HC-130H Long Range Surveillance Aircraft, five 110-foot Patrol Boats (WPB), and five 87-foot Marine Protector Class Coastal Patrol Boats (CPB) — as new acquisitions become operational.
The budget notes that in fiscal year 2020 USCG responded to 16,845 search-and-rescue cases; assisted 21,050 people, saved 4,286 lives, and protected more than $60.9 million in property from loss. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit with resultant port closures, the USCG facilitated the safe debarkation of more than 250,000 passengers and 70,000 crew from 120 vessels in U.S. ports. On the law enforcement front, the Coast Guard removed more than 318,000 pounds of cocaine from trafficking routes and more than 70,000 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $5.6 billion; 456 suspected smugglers were detained for prosecution.