A Coast Guard 26-foot Response Boat-Small crew prepares to return to USCGC William Hart (WPC 1134) after boarding operations off the coast of Holualoa, Big Island, Oct. 21, 2019. William Hart 154-foot Fast Response Cutter and third FRC to homeport in Honolulu. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Connor0

Coast Guard Budget Proposal Funds Second Icebreaker, Limits Fast Response Cutter Program

The president’s $12.3 billion budget request for the U.S. Coast Guard would fund construction of a second Polar Security Cutter while limiting the Fast Response Cutter program funding to post-delivery work.

Out of the USCG’s plan to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters, which Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz says are “absolutely needed,” 37 have been received and six more are in the process of being completed. The proposed $20 million allocated toward the program for fiscal year 2021 would fund “program management, post-delivery activity, government furnished equipment and technical support for the continued acquisition of FRCs to replace the Coast Guard’s fleet of 110-foot Island Class patrol boats,” says the DHS budget outline.

The budget proposal, which will inevitably see adjustments in Congress, allocates $555 million to the Polar Security Cutter program as it “supports PSC program management and fully funds the construction of PSC #2.”

The request also allocates $15 million for a multi-year Service Life Extension Project for the Polar Star.

“We’ve got a plan to extend her service life,” Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray recently told Congress of the aging Polar Star, the nation’s only heavy icebreaker. “We’ll start work on that so when she comes home in our summertime, their wintertime down in the South Pole, we’ll spend extra time in the yard, extra funds, to extend her service life” to make it to the anticipated 2024 finish date of the new icebreaker.

The Offshore Patrol Cutter program, replacing the Medium Endurance Cutter fleet, would get $546 million; it “provides for construction of OPC #3 and Long Lead Time Materials for OPC #4.”

Elsewhere in the budget proposal:

  • $78 million for “missionization of HC-27J aircraft and continued Minotaur mission system retrofits on the existing HC-144 fleet, including sensor upgrades”
  • $65 million for continued “modernization and sustainment of the Coast Guard’s MH-65 and MH-60T helicopter fleets”
  • $31.8 million for “continued build-out of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems and emerging Cyber and Enterprise Mission Platform projects”
  • $149.7 million for shore infrastructure, “including recapitalization, modification, upgrades, new construction, and land acquisition associated with the homeporting of new assets and the execution of Coast Guard operations.” This would includes “projects to support air operations” in the National Capital Region and Clearwater, Fla.; shoreside facility upgrades in Buffalo, N.Y. and Philadelphia; and construction of housing in Perry, Maine. It also includes projects to support the homeporting of PSC #1 in Seattle and National Security Cutter (NSC) #11 in Charleston.

The total budget request is just over $142 million more than what was enacted for the USCG in fiscal year 2020. Programs that would see major reductions in the new proposal include asset decommissionings and retirements at $35.5 million, management efficiencies at $29.9 million, and mission support efficiencies at $13 million to promote “efficiencies to service delivery and sustainment of the Coast Guard’s fleet of boats and its execution of logistics compliance” and repurpose resources “to develop an organic C4IT support structure previously provided by contractors.” Boat safety funds would be cut by $880,000.

The proposal allocates $115.9 million to pay and benefits, keeping in line with the 3.1 percent military pay raise for FY 2021 included in the National Defense Authorization Act signed in December. The Mission Ready Total Workforce would receive $15.1 million for “diversity and inclusion initiatives, training and retention in critical areas of expertise, and support to the active duty and reserve workforce” along with transitioning the USCG to electronic health records.

“The Coast Guard will continue to provide operational support to the DOD for Overseas Contingency Operations via deployed patrol vessels, law enforcement teams, and maritime counter-terrorism security operations,” the budget proposal states, and this would get $215 million. “Investments in FY 2021 enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to support DOD by continuing the transition of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia from Island Class Patrol Boats to Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters that began in FY 2020.”

Other allocations include $32.4 million for IT infrastructure recapitalization and bandwidth increase, $32.7 million for cybersecurity including establishing a Cyber Mission Team (CMT) and Cyber Support Team (CST) along with a second Cyber Protection Team (CPT), and $84.3 million to increase funding for operations and maintenance of shore facilities and provide “sustainment funding for new cutters, boats, aircraft, and associated C4ISR subsystems delivered through acquisition efforts,” along with supporting “two FRCs, NSC #9, a portion of the crew of OPC #1, and the transition of Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico from MH-65 to MH-60 helicopters.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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