The House Appropriations Committee passed an appropriations bill that would grant the Coast Guard hundreds of millions in funding both beyond last year’s levels and this year’s administration budget request.
The fiscal year 2021 homeland security funding bill was approved Wednesday on a party-line vote of 30-22, with Republicans dissenting as the legislation does not include funding for building a border wall.
That could also set the bill up for a presidential veto; the Defense Department and military construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bills similarly block border wall funding, and President Trump has threatened to veto the DoD bill over a provision that would fund renaming of bases that currently have monikers of Confederate generals.
“Strong investments in modern, effective technologies will improve homeland security missions, from cybersecurity and disaster preparedness to border and maritime security,” Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said at the homeland security bill markup.
The House committee included $12,812,825,000 for the Coast Guard, exceeding the fiscal year 2020 total of $11,966,124,000 and the 2021 budget request of $12,101,598,000.
The Coast Guard operations and support appropriation for fiscal year 2020 was $8,181,253,000. The 2021 budget request was $8,377,740,000. House appropriators put $8,560,267,000 in the bill.
Increases in that area above the administration’s budget request include:
- $6 million for recruitment and retention, $6,359,000 for training and critical course development
- $14 million for infrastructure modernization—Rescue 21 Alaska
- $6 million to implement a big data platform
- $6.5 million for phone systems modernization
- $15 million for next generation cutter underway connectivity
- $3 million to support MH–65 Link 16
- $16 million for cyber readiness
- $17.5 million for cutter navigation and domain awareness systems
- $5 million for critical depot level maintenance for cutters, boats, and aircraft
- $26,866,000 to begin to address the backlog for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, and intelligence systems
- $20 million for depot maintenance for shore assets
- $5 million for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances evaluations and response
- $2.5 million for the Safe Homes Initiative
- $19.5 million to maintain current services
- $4.9 million for mental health support and services
- $5 million to continue fiscal year 2020 support activities authorized under section 303 of Public Law 115–282
The House funding bill leaves out $11,662,000 requested for civilian awards spending increases. The bill also includes $215 million in Overseas Contingency Operations funding, which the administration sought to fund in the Coast Guard’s discretionary base.
The Coast Guard Museum would get $5 million under the House bill, with USCG directed to brief the committee before the money is obligated. Also in the bill is $9 million requested “to expand the Coast Guard’s capacity to execute a multi-layered approach in the Western Hemisphere maritime transit zone and dismantle Transnational Criminal Organizations in the region.”
The committee’s blueprint provides $260 million for four Fast Response Cutters, $240 million above the request to finish the program. On the National Security Cutter, “the Committee rejects the proposed rescission of $70,000,000 appropriated in Public Law 116–93.”
“The Committee understands that Coast Guard’s current NSC program is underfunded in fiscal year 2021 by $68,400,000 for followon acquisition needs, including Post Delivery Activities, due in part to the Administration’s redirection of funds appropriated for this purpose through transfers to other DHS components,” continues the bill reported out of committee. “The Committee directs the Coast Guard to utilize those funds to ensure operationalization of the NSC fleet.”
The bill provides the requested $546 million for the Offshore Patrol Cutter and the requested $555 million to procure a second Polar Security Cutter. “The Committee is committed to the importance of a U.S. presence in the polar regions, especially the Arctic, and is pleased to be able to continue to advance the procurement of these assets,” the bill adds.
Appropriators also included $120 million, or $110 million above the administration’s request, for the 18th HC–130J long-range surveillance aircraft as the acquisition program works toward a goal of 22. The bill also addresses USCG’s Long Range Command and Control Aircraft from 2001 and a newer leased one: “The Committee understands that the Coast Guard currently plans to use funding provided in its fiscal year 2020 appropriation to replace the newer leased asset. Before committing to that approach, the Commandant is directed the to reassess whether replacement of the older aircraft could be more cost effective and provide added operational capability.”
The bill includes $166,200,000 above the administration’s request to fund the top two projects from the Housing, Family Support, Safety, and Training Facilities category of the Coast Guard’s Unfunded Priority List (UPL) and the top four projects from the Shore Construction Supporting Operational Assets and Maritime Commerce category of the UPL. Appropriators are assuming $4 million from the Coast Guard Housing Fund will be used for these projects.
Coast Guard research and development received $4,949,000 in fiscal year 2020, and the administration requested $5,276,000 for 2021. House appropriators hiked that up to $8,276,000, with the extra funds going toward drone R&D. “The Committee supports the integration of unmanned aerial systems into Coast Guard operations to provide greater situational awareness and take advantage of developments in rapidly improving reconnaissance technology,” the bill notes.