As with other federal agencies, the Coast Guard takes a hit under President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal, but the service’s top official says key Coast Guard missions would be met and fleet modernization would continue.
The president’s budget, delivered to Congress on April 10, would allocate $9.8 billion for the Coast Guard, $582 million (5.6 percent) less than the budget recently passed for fiscal 2013.
Of concern to some in Congress, the proposal would cut the agency’s acquisition budget from $1.47 billion to $951 million. Funding would be available for the seventh National Security Cutter, which are replacing the aging fleet of high endurance cutters, two more Fast Response Cutters, which are replacing the 30-year-old 110-foot patrol boats, and for survey and design of a new polar icebreaker.
But no funding is offered to begin work on the eighth NSC, which Congress fears will delay the production line and increase costs. The current contract for the FRC requires the Coast Guard to acquire at least four a year. Acquiring just two will delay production and increase costs.
There is no funding in the budget request to rehabilitate deteriorating housing for Coast Guard members and their families. Congress allocated $10 million in fiscal 2013. The budget request also proposes shrinking personnel by 931 civilian and military positions, which would drop the workforce to less than 40,000. Reductions come from decommssioning certain assets, the closure of facilities and cuts to personnel assigned to training, intelligence, headquarters and the Coast Guard Academy. This also reflects a reduction in crew sizes, as new ships like the NSC require fewer personnel to operate than the older vessels.
Appearing before congressional committees last week to review the budget plan, Coast Guard Commandant Rear Adm. Robert Papp Jr. said the proposal “allocates resources to the highest priority initiatives to counter the most emergent threats, mitigate risks and keep the maritime domain safe and secure.” The request also offers investments in new cutters, boats, aircraft and infrastructure, he added.
Several members of Congress, however, told Papp that the proposed cuts were not acceptable.
“This budget submission severely diminishes current, near-term and future capabilities, “ Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security said at the April 16 hearing. “This is a budget that is very difficult for us to accept.”
Meanwhile, the $365 million request for the U.S. Maritime Administration represents a $15 million increase over the fiscal 2013 budget, mostly for the Maritime Security Program. Funds are requested to continue improvements to buildings and programs at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and for a new port infrastructure development program. No funds are offered, however, for the Assistance to Small Shipyards program, which received $10 million last year.