SNA NEWS: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

By Jon Harper
Coast Guard cutter USCGC Polar Star

Photo: Coast Guard

The Coast Guard needs a major injection of additional funding to keep pace with global challenges, the service’s commandant said Jan. 13.

Other nations are beefing up their fleets, he noted, including in the Indo-Pacific region, Adm. Karl Schultz noted during a speech at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between 2010 and 2016, China — which the U.S. government views as a great power competitor — increased the size of its coast guard by 73 percent measured by tonnage, he said, citing figures from the RAND Corp.

“We expect China and its coast guard to wield more power in the future,” Schultz added.

The U.S. Coast Guard protects the nation’s territorial waters, but also assists partners throughout the world including the U.S. military. The sea service performs a wide variety of missions including upholding international maritime law, providing situational awareness and counter-drug operations. It has supported all U.S. military geographic combatant commands, Schultz noted.

The world is entering an ”era of coast guards,” according to one of his slides.

The U.S. Coast Guard will soon have 103 cutters of various types in its inventory, but is looking to add more to boost its capacity and capabilities. It is also pursuing upgrades to its information technology systems and other assets, as well as looking to bring on more personnel.

“To close the Coast Guard readiness gap, we need sustainable annual budget growth — I'd say 3 to 5 percent over the next five years,” Schultz said. “We need a booster shot of sorts, about $900 million to $1 billion dollars to address our most pressing needs.”

The recently enacted omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2021 provided the sea service about $12.8 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Icebreakers are a top modernization priority as activity in the Arctic region increases and nations such as China and Russia — another great power competitor — increase their activity there.

The Coast Guard currently operates only one icebreaker, the aging Polar Star. Schultz said the service needs “a minimum” of six.

Plans call for procuring three new large icebreakers known as polar security cutters, the first of which will be under construction this year. The service is also developing requirements for a medium icebreaker that officials are calling the Arctic security cutter, he said.

If resources were less constrained, the Coast Guard would like to have a fleet of nine icebreakers including potentially six polar security cutters and three Arctic security cutters, he noted.

The service is considering renting icebreakers to meet its needs.

“We're looking at some leasing options as a bridging strategy — not to be in lieu of [buying vessels], but additive — to close some gaps,” Schultz said.

One idea that had been considered but appears to be dead now is nuclear-powered vessels.

“We have moved off the nuclear-powered” icebreaker, Schultz said. “The ability to operate that in the Coast Guard — that just doesn't exist, and nor could we build out to that with all the demands on our plate.”

Topics: Maritime Security

Comments (5)

Re: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

Give them what they need plus two or three new ice breakers. Load them up with plenty of drones of all types and numerous payloads. Also they need a Commissary in Mobile Alabama.

DAVID Del Santo at 7:11 AM
Re: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

Someone should contact Dan Sullivan in Congress about the idea to build additional national security cutter instead of the less capable OPC, then the navy would have more frigate sized vessels at it disposal in the next conflict. at least one of those NSC s could reside in alaska as an arctic security cutter alongside the Icebreakers when they are built mid decade, believe it or not there are currently no warships either USN or USCG stationed in Alaska, only the old and unarmed Research ship turned cutter USCG Healy, and she is in drydocked for major repairs.

DS at 3:58 PM
Re: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

I used to work for the Coast Guard years ago in accounting. Also I'm a spouse of a 30 years service of a deceased Coast Guard Warrent Officer. Well aware of the lack of funds all those years. Had the Congress kept the funding level as the other Services they wouldn't be so far behind today. Now we are paying for the lack of funds and caring. I remember those in congress didn't even know the U.S. Coast Guard was the oldest of the five Services. Now we need to really step and and take care of this Service now. We can no longer let them (Russia or China) take us over.

Linda Dean at 11:58 AM
Re: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

Instead of sending Billions to countries who probably will use it against us or giving $ to illegals, give it to the lowest paid bunch of guys on the planet. They have so many duties and not enough personnel. Come on Joe Biden, can you handle that.

Sonny at 2:53 PM
Re: Coast Guard Wants Budget ‘Booster Shot’

Give them the money that went overseas recently, some of which will probably be used against us. Or, stop the illegals from coming in who are adding to our 31 trillion National Debt. The CG is the most overworked with the least sailors on the planet. You can do it Joe.

Sonny Guizzetti at 3:00 PM
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