Coast Guard Commandant: Budget Cuts Are Coming
Unlike the other military services, whose budgets are going up next year, the Coast Guard is being hit with funding cuts.President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget allocates $10.1 billion for the Coast Guard -- a 3 percent cut from 2010. The service will shed 1,112active-duty personnel while expanding its civilian workforce by 339,amounting to 773 lost jobs, said Adm. Thad W. Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, in a speech today at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.
The budget cuts also create uncertainty about the future of the Coast Guard's equipment modernization programs and personnel recruiting efforts, he said. Allen urged the administration to help in providing long-term funding projections in order to add more credibility to the Coast Guard’s acquisition programs. He wants to be able to better predict employment levels. Currently, there is a backlog of recruits waiting to hear if they’ve been accepted.
“One of the challenges we face is that we don’t know until near the beginning of the fiscal year what our funding levels we be,” Allen said. “So we don’t know our personnel needs.”
He also discussed the financial tension between maintaining the existing fleet of cutters and building new ones. Upkeep costs continue to grow, making it harder with each passing year to allocate the funds necessary for acquiring new vessels. “No amount of maintenance can outpace the ravages of age,”he said. “We must lay up the old ships.”
In January, the service accepted the second of eight new national security cutters that it plans to add to its fleet.
Allen also praised the service’s response to last month’s earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 200,000 people.
Coast Guard security cutters delivered 700 emergency responders to the disaster zone and evacuated about 1,000 U.S. citizens from the wreckage, Allen said. Bu the rescue efforts came at a price, he added.
Of the 12 cutters sent to Haiti since the earthquake, 10 needed substantial maintenance upon return because of wear and tear on the outdated vessels. Their average age is 41 years, compared to 14 years for Navy ships. “We overextended ourselves because of the nature of the problem,” Allen said. “The current condition of our high-endurance cutters is of great concern to me.”
Today’s speech was Allen’s fourth and final "State of the Coast Guard" address, as this is his last year as commandant. During a question-and-answer session, he was asked if he’d ever consider accepting an appointment as secretary ofthe Department of Homeland Security.
“The smartest admirals I know,” he responded, “are retired.”
The entire text of Allen's speech can be downloadedhere.