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Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk
Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. became the 24th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard as the service prepares to take on more complex and challenging missions against a backdrop of tighter budgets and rising costs.
 
The commandant, who spoke with National Defense in a recent interview, says he wants to stay the course with the major modernization programs that his predecessors launched, but he cautions that budget pressures could put some projects at risk of more delays and cutbacks.

Of most concern is Deepwater, the Coast Guard’s lengthy and expensive acquisition program that has been plagued by cost overruns and schedule slips. Many of the service’s ships and boats are nearing a half-century in age. Six months into his first year at the helm of the Coast Guard, Papp says he will fight to keep modernization programs on track despite a fiscally constrained environment. But he acknowledged that this is easier said than done.
 
The admiral spoke about the Coast Guard’s aging ship fleet, crumbling shore infrastructure and the struggle to apportion a $10 billion budget for buying new platforms, maintaining old ones and performing missions. Taking fixed costs out of the equation, “you get down to the point where you’ve got about $6 billion for the operation of the Coast Guard and about $1.4 billion that we’re spending on acquisitions,” Papp said.
 
Considering that one National Security Cutter takes up about half the acquisition funds for a year, a host of Coast Guard projects end up on the back burner — 40-year-old ships, patrol boats that are falling apart, sidelined icebreakers and shore facilities that date back to the 19th and even 18th centuries, Papp said. There is about a $2 billion backlog for updating shore infrastructure, he added.
 
In addition to the Coast Guard’s struggles to upgrade its equipment and facilities, Papp must deal with emerging operational challenges, such as growing terrorist threats and the opening of waterways up north. Warmer temperatures are causing the polar ice caps to shrink, Navy scientists have warned. As of now, the Coast Guard has no infrastructure in the Arctic and must develop a plan to deal with increased traffic in the previously impenetrable waterways.
 
“The Arctic is going to be a big challenge for us. We have to do more than think about it. We’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. We need to act,” Papp said. “I would say that the Canadians are actually better prepared at this point to respond to activities in the Arctic than we are.”
 
During a wide-ranging interview, the admiral discussed efforts to field an unmanned air vehicle and “green” initiatives to cut back on energy use. He also talked about his plans to seek additional funds from Congress to support the Coast Guard’s expanding mission portfolio.
 
“There’s no other organization that has the authorities and competencies to carry out that broad range of missions,” Papp said. “We’ll just continue to press on making the case for the need to recapitalize and keep our Coast Guard strong.”
 
For additional details on Adm. Papp’s plans for modernizing the Coast Guard and coping with a changing world, check out the January 2011 issue of National Defense.

Comments

Re: Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk

there is nothing differant then all the years before. I spent 26 years In Coast guard. Adm. Papp's has to threaten to shut down some ships and fight big time ti get money to do the job some day they will gt blamed for not doing the job and who's flault will it be? Congress that who's  I'm glad I am not in the Coast Guard to day
Richard LeLievre at 11/16/2010 11:34 AM

Re: Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk

there is nothing differant then all the years before. I spent 26 years In Coast guard. Adm. Papp's has to threaten to shut down some ships and fight big time ti get money to do the job some day they will gt blamed for not doing the job and who's flault will it be? Congress that who's  I'm glad I am not in the Coast Guard to day
Richard LeLievre at 11/16/2010 11:35 AM

Re: Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk

Who will stand up for the Coast Guard?  I'm sorry but the Commandant is more of a political job and the CG needs a real advocate for their needs.  The CG needs to start saying no to missions unless they have the right equipment and personnel.  The do more with less slogan has hurt the CG thus far and they can no longer operate with the lack of support they have.  Congress wake up, you wouldn't ask the army to go into battle with 50 year old tanks!  Somebody needs to take a stand and make things happen.  The whole budget constraint thing is a sorry excuse.  This country can afford to give it's United States Coast Guard what it needs and deserves to operate around the world.
Mon Etalks at 11/16/2010 2:19 PM

Re: Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk

The Commandant has to learn to fight for money for the Coast Guard, not role over to get the 4th star and the promotion to COMDT.  The DOD NEVER thinks about being good stewards of the taxpayers dollars or doing more with less.  The have come to learn that taxdollars are a constant flow from the spigot.  It always is there!  I am tired of the Coast Guard being treated like the red-headed step child of the military! 
Richard Stoud at 11/16/2010 2:58 PM

Re: Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Pressures Put Modernization at Risk

ADM Allen would be the perfect man on horseback to restore what Charlie Golf needs to do its job. As a retiree, he's out from under pressures that affect the incumbent top management. I would be really glad to work for him if he decides to run for national political office.
George Cassidy at 11/17/2010 6:35 AM

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