Coast Guard (CG) Commandant ADM Robert Papp told a Homeland Security subcommittee that recapitalizing the Coast Guard’s aging fleet is critical to protecting U.S. high seas sovereignty.

Testifying on the FY2012 Coast Guard budget before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Papp said the high operational level in 2010 “stressed existing aged and obsolete cutters, boats, aircraft and support infrastructure.”    The Commandant told Senators it was imperative that the Coast Guard continue to recapitalize the fleet.  He warned that gaps in recapitalization funding are costly and urged Congress to fully support the Coast Guard’s FY2012 recapitalization budget

The FY2012 Coast Guard budget requests $1.4 billion to recapitalize its cutters, aircraft, and Command, Control, Communications, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.  Funding is included for 40 Response Boats and six Fast Response Cutters (which will replace the 110-ft Island Class Patrol Boat) as well as two Maritime Patrol aircraft and one HH-60 helicopter.  The acquisition budget request also includes funds to renovate and restore shore facilities.

Papp underscored the importance of the Offshore Patrol Cutter because the CG fleet is aging rapidly.  He said specifications for the new cutter are nearing finalization and they are working to issue a request for preliminary design and construction proposals.  The Offshore Patrol Cutter will replace the Medium Endurance Cutter class for conducting missions on the open seas and coastal approaches.

The Commandant told Senators he understood the economic and budget challenges facing the U.S.  Like the Department of Defense and other agencies, the Coast Guard has identified management efficiency savings and administrative reductions.  The Commandant said he directed more than $100 million in such savings.  But, he said, “I cannot afford to cut any more without jeopardizing our most valuable service to the nation…front line operations.”