Coast Guard Commandant ADM Robert Papp told a congressional committee his top budget priority is to rebuild the Coast Guard and provide “our hard working Coast Guardsman with the tools they need to do their job.”
In his testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, ADM Papp described the successes the Coast Guard has achieved and the challenges that remain. He said the Coast Guard has taken actions since 9/11 that have mitigated risks to US ports and inland waterways. “We’ve invested in more small boats, more capable aircraft and more personnel top operate them,” he told the committee. In addition, he said the Coast Guard has unified field operations, enhanced inspection and compliance programs, and “built-out a highly effective deployable specialized force capability.”
But, Papp told the committee “the condition of our offshore forces—especially our cutter fleet—is a different story.” He said most of the cutter force is over 40 year old with legacy high endurance cutter achieving only 70 percent of their planned time afloat. And even then, he said over half the time the ships sail with major problems. Adding to his concern, he said, is that maritime threats continue to rise. This situation requires a commitment to building major cutter, according to Papp. The Coast Guard must continue its major cutter building program, Papp said. “In order to deliver our new assets as fast and inexpensively as possible, we must keep these production lines running,” he stressed.
FY2013 Coast Guard budget request “strikes the optimal balance between current operations and investment in future capability,” the Commandant testified. He highlighted four priorities: Responsibly rebuild the Coast Guard; preserve front-line operations; strengthen resource and operational stewardship; and prepare for the future.
The FY2013 budget request funds the sixth National Security Cutter as part of the long-term plan to replace the aging High Endurance Cutter Fleet. The budget also funds two Fast Response Cutters (FRC) to replace retiring 110-ft patrol boats.
To balance front-line operational requirements and recapitalization needs, Papp said the FY2013 budget includes “funding to operate and maintain Coast Guard assets and sustain essential front-line operations.” This includes funds to operate new assets and as well as “investment in military workforce pay and benefits,” he said.
Papp also identified efficiencies and cost savings to meet budget constraints and fund high priority investment programs. Planned reductions from these efforts affect a wide range of enterprise activities including IT infrastructure, vehicles, professional service contracts, travel, PCS costs, and GSA leases. Targeted reductions would eliminate headquarters position (through attrition and a Washington, DC area hiring freeze), cut recruiting costs, and consolidate Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Airborne Use of Force (AUF) capability.