BUDGET 2022: Biden Proposes Flat Budget for Coast Guard
Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley
Despite recent calls for more resources, the Coast Guard won’t receive a topline boost in President Joe Biden’s 2022 budget proposal.
The fiscal blueprint, released May 28, would provide $13.1 billion to the sea service. That is just $38 million, or 0.3 percent, more than it received for 2021, according to budget documents. However, it is higher than the $12.2 billion enacted for 2020.
“The standout item for me is that it's a flat line budget,” Seth Crospey, director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute, told National Defense. “And this is at a time when the Coast Guard is deploying and is actively involved in the United States’ competition with major powers” such as China, he added.
The Coast Guard protects U.S. territorial waters, but also assists partners throughout the world including the U.S. military’s combatant commands. It performs a wide variety of missions including upholding international maritime law, providing situational awareness and counter-drug operations.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Schultz has been banging the drum about the need for more funding.
“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 during a speech in January at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium. “We need a booster shot of sorts, about $900 million to $1 billion to address our most pressing needs.”
In a letter accompanying the release of the budget documents, Schultz said readiness is his top priority.
“Today, the U.S. Coast Guard is in the midst of the most extensive recapitalization effort since the Second World War. However, until recapitalization is fully completed, the women and men of the U.S. Coast Guard continue to conduct missions with legacy assets, some of which are over 50 years old,” he said.
“Ensuring the Coast Guard is ready to meet the challenges of today and able to prepare for the threats of tomorrow requires predictable, recurring, annual funding increases to account for the rising and inflationary costs of maintaining assets and infrastructure, and more importantly, sustaining a ready workforce. Absent additional investment in Coast Guard readiness, the service has already been forced to make difficult trade-offs among competing demands for services, and may soon confront challenges responding to disasters or adequately conducting our statutorily-mandated missions,” he added.
Under the Biden administration’s proposal for 2022, the Coast Guard’s procurement, construction and improvements accounts would total $1.64 billion, less than the $2.26 billion it received for 2021 and the $1.77 billion it received for 2020.
About $1.04 billon of the PCI funding would go toward vessels including: $597 million for the construction of Offshore Patrol Cutter No. 4 and long lead time materials for OPC No. 5; $170 million for the Polar Security Cutter program including project management for the construction of the first two polar security cutters and initial long lead time materials for a third PSC; $78 million for post-delivery activities for National Security Cutters 10 and 11; $67 million for the Waterways Commerce Cutter initial detail design and construction contract award; $20 million for program management activities to support ongoing construction of Fast Response Cutters; and $15 million to support a multi-year service life extension effort for the Polar Star, the nation’s only operational heavy icebreaker.
Another $222 million in PCI funding would help recapitalize and sustain fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft including: sustainment of the current MH-60T helicopter fleet and initial funding for fleet expansion; modernization and sustainment of MH-65 helicopters to extend their service life into the 2030s; continued “missionization” of HC-27J medium-range surveillance aircraft.
It would also fund the installation of small unmanned aerial systems for National Security Cutters, which will provide a “persistent airborne surveillance capability,” according to budget documents.
Under Biden’s budget, the service would see a significant boost in operations and support funding in 2022. The $9.02 billion for O&S would be $535 million, or 6.3 percent, more than it received for 2021.
“It's a step in the right direction,” Cropsey said.
As of press time, the Coast Guard had not responded to a request for comment about whether the proposed funding would be sufficient.
In his letter accompanying the budget documents, Schultz said: “Our FY 2022 president’s budget request is a direct reflection of continued focus and commitment to ensuring U.S. Coast Guard readiness.”