Coast Guard Facing Financial Crunch
Photo: Coast Guard
The Coast Guard is facing funding shortages as it seeks to upgrade its fleet, and the service does not have a sufficient plan to meet its long-term modernization goals, according to a government watchdog group.
The president’s fiscal year 2018 budget request included only $1.2 billion for Coast Guard acquisitions, even though senior service officials have said they need more than $2 billion annually, said Marie Mak, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office. That is part of a multi-year trend, she added.
“In an effort to address funding constraints, the Coast Guard delayed new acquisitions through the annual budget process but lacks a long-term plan to set forth affordable priorities,” she said in recent written testimony to the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and maritime transportation.
She estimated that offshore patrol cutter procurement would cost $12.1 billion and consume about two-thirds of the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget between 2018 and 2032. Meanwhile, the service aims to buy new polar icebreakers, fast response cutters and aviation assets in the coming years.
Recapitalization remains the Coast Guard’s highest priority, Deputy Commandant for Operations Vice Adm. Charles Ray and Deputy Commandant for Mission Support Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz said in written testimony to the subcommittee.
The Coast Guard currently has a $1.6 billion shore infrastructure construction backlog, and a $708 million shore maintenance backlog, according to officials.
“Aging infrastructure adversely affects operational efficiency and readiness,” Ray and Stosz said. “Investments in shore infrastructure are vital to modernizing the Coast Guard and equipping our workforce with the facilities they require.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the subcommittee said: “The Coast Guard has continued funding for … [high priority] acquisitions programs, while shore-side infrastructure, shore maintenance, and the environmental cleanup and restoration programs have incurred backlogs.”
It’s unclear whether the service will be able to meet its modernization objectives because it has not presented a long-term plan that matches its acquisition requirements with budget projections, Mak said. GAO recommended that the service develop a 20-year fleet modernization plan that identifies all procurement needs and the financial resources required to buy them.
“We are working aggressively to validate a transparent and repeatable model to identify the appropriate force structure required for the Coast Guard to respond simultaneously to global, national and regional events,” Ray and Stosz said.
Meanwhile, Hunter suggested that the Coast Guard could end up receiving more money than the Trump administration requested. He asked the service to send Congress a “wish list” of unfunded requirements. He said he expects to receive it at the end of June.